RALEIGH –– The North Carolina Turnpike Authority took possession of $1.01 billion in bond proceeds and federal loans today allowing it to award construction contracts to build the state’s first modern toll road, the Triangle Expressway in Wake and Durham counties.
“This begins a new era for funding transportation projects in North Carolina,” said David Joyner, executive director of the Turnpike Authority. “While financing the Triangle Expressway presented unforeseen challenges due to recent credit market events, it reaffirmed our commitment to providing this new form of highway delivery. We are excited about bringing this project to the citizens of our state decades sooner than otherwise possible using conventional funds.”
The Turnpike Authority Board of Directors awarded contracts to S.T. Wooten Corp. for the Triangle Parkway segment of the Triangle Expressway and the Raleigh-Durham Roadbuilders (a joint venture of Archer Western Construction LTD and Granite Construction Co.) for the Western Wake Freeway segment. The contract amounts are approximately $137.5 million and $446.5 million, respectively. Right-of-way acquisition and other preparatory work will begin immediately. Construction will begin in mid-August.
“With the project’s financial close and the award of contracts today, more than $1 billion is being injected into North Carolina’s economy, putting thousands of North Carolinians to work,” said Transportation Secretary Gene Conti, chairman of the Turnpike Authority Board of Directors. “The Federal Highway Administration estimates that for every $1 million spent on transportation 30 jobs are created. Using those estimates, this project alone could create or preserve 30,000 jobs.”
The Triangle Expressway is a new-location roadway from the NC 55 Bypass near Holly Springs to I-40 at NC 147. This toll road system is approximately 18.8 miles in length and is comprised of three segments: Western Wake Freeway, Triangle Parkway and existing NC 540 between NC 55 and NC 54. The project is a six-lane, controlled-access toll road and is expected to save customers up to 20 minutes per full trip. The Triangle Parkway is scheduled to open to traffic in 2011 while the Western Wake Freeway is scheduled to open to traffic in 2012.
The Triangle Expressway became an official turnpike project in October 2005. By using a
combination of earlier environmental and engineering studies from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and new studies conducted by the Turnpike Authority, the project was able to move to construction in less than four years. The Turnpike Authority had hoped to sell bonds and begin construction on the project in late 2008. However, the worldwide financial crisis essentially closed the municipal markets, and the bond sale was delayed. Despite difficult economic conditions, the Turnpike Authority continued to pursue a financing plan that would allow it to raise the Triangle Expressway’s credit rating and sell bonds.
The Turnpike Authority and its underwriters, led by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, closed on roughly $270 million in toll revenue bonds and $353 million in state appropriation bonds. Due to favorable financing, the bonds will carry a 30-year term rather than a 39-year term and have a blended interest rate of five and three-fourths percent. The Turnpike Authority also closed a $387 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan on July 10 to complete the project’s $1.01 billion financing package.
The Triangle Expressway will be the first project in the United States designed and built to utilize an all electronic toll collection system, meaning there will be no toll booths and no stopping to pay tolls. Customers may use cash, check or credit card to purchase an electronic transponder that will automatically charge for road use. For those without a transponder, overhead gantries with highspeed camera imaging systems will capture license plate information and drivers will be billed. The Triangle Expressway toll rates have not been set, however similar toll facilities around the country charge tolls in the range of 10 to 20 cents per mile.
“We look forward to formally breaking ground on this regionally significant project and we thank our many partners, including the North Carolina General Assembly, the Research Triangle Park Foundation, area chambers of commerce, the Regional Transportation Alliance, NCGO!, and the members of the Capital Area and Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organizations just to name a few,” added Joyner.