MONROE – The wait is almost over.
North Carolina Turnpike Authority Executive Director Beau Memory said Oct. 30 the Monroe Expressway will open Nov. 27.
“It’s a big project for the region and we are excited about opening it to the public,” Memory said. “Our estimates are you will save 20 to 40 minutes, depending on where you are traveling from or to.”
The west end of the expressway will begin just past the U.S. 74 interchange with I-485 near the Mecklenburg-Union County line and run 20 miles through Union County before ending near Marshville. There will be six full interchanges and two partial interchanges near the end of the highway. Three of the interchanges are in Monroe and two are in Indian Trail.
The four-lane full electronic toll road will bypass 25 traffic signals along the current route on U.S. 74. Construction on the expressway started in May 2015, and it cost $731 million to build.
Employees from the local North Carolina Turnpike Authority offices in Monroe and Charlotte and local leaders had the opportunity on Oct. 30 to travel through a toll gantry, see toll transactions being created and learn how the all-electronic system works.
“This is an all-electronic tollway. There are no stop-and-go toll booths,” said director of toll road operations Andy Lelewski. “Tolls are paid at highway speed. A car comes through here and this equipment here identifies the vehicle and classifies it. Ultimately, all the information goes back to our office in Raleigh. Customers are likely to see that toll posted to their account that day.”
Revenue collected from tolls will stay in Union County. Revenue will be used to maintain the expressway and reduce the debt incurred to build the highway. If there is a surplus in any given year, that money would stay in the county.
Tolls for a two-axle vehicle going the length of the expressway one-way will be $2.54 with a NC Quick Pass or $3.92 if billed by mail. That computes to a 35-percent savings if a NC Quick Pass is used. Tolls for three and four-axle vehicles will be double to four times the rate for a two-axle vehicle. Toll rates could go up a few cents each year to keep pace with inflation.
Drivers can opt to set up a pre-paid online NC Quick Pass account and get a sticker or transponder to get the lowest toll rates. A sticker is free and also works on toll roads in Florida and Georgia. There is a small fee for the transponder but it works in all E-Z Pass states.
Drivers who do not wish to sign up for an NC Quick Pass account will pay tolls through the post-paid bill by mail program. Under this program, the registered owner of the vehicle incurring the toll charges receives an invoice in the mail.
Travelers who pay by bill will have the option of paying online, by phone, through the mail or in person. The Turnpike Authority has opened two customer service offices in the region, one in Monroe and the other in Charlotte.
If tolls are not paid in the pay by bill method by the due date extra fees are added to the bill each month until paid. If the account goes delinquent, the Department of Motor Vehicles will put a hold on the owners’ registration, which means a vehicle owner can’t get a new registration without paying all delinquent tolls and late fee penalties.