Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. Why are we looking at toll roads or express toll lanes in the Triangle Region?

    In growing urban areas such as the Triangle region, new general-purpose lanes only temporarily relieve congestion, especially during rush hours. As growth continues, more and more drivers will use the same major commuting routes. Highway lanes that usually flow freely during most of the day can come to a standstill as use peaks when many people are trying to get to work or home from a busy day. Given these challenges, the local transportation planning organization is conducting a study to look at optional toll roads and express toll lane strategies for a long-term solution for managing congestion for the region. Varying toll rates ensure that toll roads and/or express toll lanes are not overwhelmed, so traffic flows freely in them even during peak demand.

  2. Why is the Triangle region studying toll roads and express toll lanes instead of additional general-purpose lanes?

    Although adding general purpose lanes may temporarily address congestion problems, their unrestricted nature means they can become congested as demand increases in our growing region. As such, additional general-purpose lanes will not address the region’s long-term mobility needs. As tolling provides a source of funding, it can advance the construction of new toll roads and/or express toll lanes, giving all travelers the benefit of new capacity sooner.

  3. What are express toll lanes?

    Express toll lanes are lanes that exist on some facilities that allow a user to pay a toll for a faster and more reliable travel time. Use of express toll lanes is an option for drivers, not a requirement. On express toll lanes, all vehicles are generally tolled, but they may have free or discounted toll use for transit and other specific types of vehicles.

  4. Is it mandatory to use an express toll lane?

    No, express toll lanes offer motorists a choice. Motorists can pay a toll to ensure reliable travel times and less congestion, or to continue to use the general-purpose lanes without cost.

  5. How do tolls benefit roadway users?

    All drivers will benefit from the express toll lanes. Each driver decides if the time saved is worth the cost of taking the express toll lanes. Those who choose to take the express toll lanes, will save time and avoid congestion. Additionally, the general purpose lanes become less congested when vehicles move onto the express toll lanes. This benefits every vehicle on that stretch of highway. You may use the express toll lanes for short segments, or for the whole length of a trip.

  6. How is the price determined?

    Tolls will vary, depending on the time of day and overall traffic congestion. When express toll lanes become congested, the price will increase, reducing the number of cars entering the lanes and helping maintain reliable travel times. Toll prices will be higher during peak periods when demand is greater and lower during less congested periods. Current toll rates will be posted on signs located before the entrance point of the express toll lane segments. Once a driver enters the express toll lanes, the price of that driver’s trip is fixed for that segment. The general purpose lanes will always be available.

    Heavy Express Toll Lane Traffic = Higher Toll

    Lighter Express Toll Lane Traffic = Lower Toll

  7. How do you pay?

    Tolls are captured electronically at highway speed — there are no toll booths. If you decide to take advantage of the reliability that toll roads and express toll lanes offer, you will have two options to pay. The first option is to purchase an NC Quick Pass® transponder through the N.C. Turnpike Authority. The use of a Quick Pass® will allow you to ride at a discounted rate and will automatically deduct the toll from your pre-paid account. The second option is to utilize the Bill-By-Mail process. Overhead toll equipment will capture a picture of the vehicle’s license plate, and an invoice will be mailed to the owner’s address on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The amount of your bill will be determined by how many segments you travel and the toll rate at the time.

  8. Is a toll considered another tax?

    No, because motorists are not required to use a toll lane. It simply offers motorists a choice. Everyone is required to pay taxes, while no one is required to use a toll lane.

  9. Can you use a toll road or express toll lane for free

    NCDOT is currently evaluating which vehicles will be exempt from tolls. The exempt policy may include emergency vehicles, carpools, motorcycles and/or transit vehicles.

  10. Is tolling fair to low-income motorists?

    Per the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association’s 2015 Report on Tolling in the United States, “Many surveys have shown that drivers of all income levels use tolled facilities and support having the option to use high-quality toll roads.” Implementing a toll lane as opposed to increased gas taxes may be less burdensome to low-income citizens because the toll lane is optional whereas taxes are not optional.

    Toll roads and/or express toll lanes provide people with an option. Some persons may use it for their daily commute while others may use it on an as-needed basis (e.g. if they are running late for an appointment).

  11. What if the toll road and/or express toll lanes become congested?

    Experience in the United States over the past 20 years has shown that it is possible to operate toll roads and express toll lanes to keep them from becoming congested. Over time, occupancy and toll requirements may need to be adjusted to maintain uncongested conditions.

  12. When toll roads and/or express toll lanes are underutilized, are they opened to all traffic?

    No. At times when the express toll lanes are truly underutilized, even at a low toll rate, it is likely that the adjoining general purpose lanes are operating well. While the toll in an express toll lane will vary, it always functions as a tolled lane to avoid the confusion that might be caused if tolls were sometime completely removed. There are potential limited exceptions to this such as emergency evacuations.

  13. Are tolled roads, express toll lanes, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV), High Occupancy Toll (HOT), and managed lanes all the same thing?

    All concepts are variations of managed lanes — an umbrella term. Although similar in many regards, these lane strategies have differences in how they are applied and how customers interact with the lanes. One key aspect that all managed lanes share is the use of technology and procedures to actively monitor the use of the lanes and change the use parameters so that they avoid becoming congested. This is unlike the adjacent general purpose lanes, where congestion is a regular occurrence due to a lack of active management. Furthermore, unlike toll roads (where the entire roadway facility is tolled), motorists can choose between managed lanes and the general-purpose lanes, provided they meet the eligibility or payment requirements of the managed lanes. In all cases for managed lanes, use is an option, not a requirement.

  14. Who develops, manages and operates toll roads and express toll lanes?

    NCDOT is in charge of the toll road and express toll lanes planning and construction. Management and operations of the toll roads and/or express toll lanes, including the electronic toll collections, will be managed by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA).

  15. What states currently use toll roads?

    Thirty-four states and Puerto Rico have toll roads and crossings. The largest toll agencies are in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

  16. What states currently use express toll lanes?

    Eleven states have express toll lanes, including three Southeastern states: Virginia, Georgia and Florida.