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Toll roads on, then off, and now on again

UPDATE 10:05 pm: WRAL reports on the 10:00 news that the House has approved a $20 million funding bill for NC 540's western loop. No idea if it's only authorizing the 540 loop, or if it funds all NCTA projects, not to mention how the projects will be funded, but I'm sure we'll find out tomorrow.

Below is the original post from about ten minutes before the new funding bill passed the House:


Yesterday, the toll road financing bill hit a roadblock (ha, ha, what a pun) in the state House.

A western Wake County turnpike project faces up to a two-year delay -- and at least an $80 million markup on its price tag -- after legislative leaders late Wednesday appeared to abandon a last-ditch attempt to find seed money for the proposed toll road.

With the scheduled end of the legislative session looming today, a top House leader said it would be up to Wake County legislators to come up with $20 million in recurring seed money for the Triangle Expressway, an 18.9 mile toll road from Research Triangle Park to Holly Springs, extending the Interstate 540 Outer Loop into western and southern Wake.

"I'll grab the handle and help them pull up the bucket, but I'm leaving it up to them to come up with a solution," said Rep. Nelson Cole, the Reidsville Democrat and chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on transportation.

Cole stepped away from the issue after Senate leaders gave a chilly reception to one suggested source for the seed money -- the state highway maintenance fund. Wake County legislators said they would continue to hunt for money to rescue the project, but with time ticking down on the session, success appeared unlikely.

That means up to a two-year delay, said David Joyner, executive director of the N.C. Turnpike Authority. Unless the legislature is called in for a special session on transportation issues, the next opportunity to pump state dollars into the Wake toll road would be the "short session" in May.

One interesting note at the very bottom of that article is that the Turnpike Authority has the ability to pursue public-private partnerships to finance and build the road. I doubt that they'd want to do it on the small-scale projects that they're considering building, but it is an option to be considered in the near future.

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