UNION COUNTY, N.C. - The Monroe Expressway is almost ready to open. On Tuesday, Channel 9 got an inside look at how the Charlotte region’s first toll road will operate.
Drivers heading from Union County into Charlotte may be able to save up to 40 minutes on their commute once the Monroe Expressway opens in November. But it will come at a cost.
The new 18-mile expressway, which runs parallel to U.S. 74 from Marshville to Stallings bypassing Monroe will be the first toll road in the Charlotte region.
"I'm not a real fan of toll roads. I think it takes a lot of time to sort of figure out what the tolls are, how to pay them," Union County resident Benjamin Gatti said.
The cost to drive the entire 18 miles of the Monroe Expressway will be $2.54 for drivers who have a NC Quick Pass account and $3.92 for drivers who will be billed by mail.
There are no toll collection booths drivers will have to stop at. Electronic toll technology will scan a NC Quick Pass sticker on cars with a NC Quick Pass account. Drivers who don’t have a Quick Pass account who drive the full 18-mile stretch twice a day to and from work will pay more than $39 a week or $156 a month.
“(The toll plazas are) really designed to capture vehicles traveling through here at a high rate of speed and do so without the use of stop-and-go toll booths,” said Andy Lelewski, director of toll operations for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.
The money collected from tolls goes toward the $730 million it will cost to build the expressway.
"This is not a project that folks have to get on. It's not a toll they have to pay. It's simply a new transportation option," said Beau Memory, executive director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.
The state is expecting about $18 million to come in from the Monroe Expressway in the first budget year. With that money going toward the cost to build the bypass, Memory told Channel 9 the whole debt will likely be paid off in 35-40 years. Once that happens, the state will remove the tolls.
“Designing and implementing a project of this size, a 20-mile green-filled facility and one of the largest projects built by the state in the last five years, it takes a tremendous effort. It takes years or work,” Memory said.
As traffic on U.S. 74 continues to grow, some drivers like Ronnie Burke are optimistic about the bypass.
“I think it's going to help out quite a bit," Burke told Channel 9.
Crews are putting the finishing touches on construction. The Monroe Expressway is set to open Nov. 27.
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