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Monroe Expressway Opens Tuesday, With Area's First Tolls

The Monroe Expressway will open Nov. 27, 2018, after more than 3 years of work.
David Boraks
The Monroe Expressway will open Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, after more than three years of work.

The Monroe Expressway opens Tuesday morning in Union County, giving drivers an alternative to the congested Highway 74 - for a fee.

Construction on the 20-mile toll road began more than three years ago and cost $731 million. It's the first road in the Charlotte area to charge tolls. It will cost you 14 to 15 cents a mile, or $2.54 for the full route, from the Mecklenburg County line to Marshville in eastern Union County.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority operates the road. Operations chief Dennis Jernigan said Charlotte-area leaders decided it was the fastest way to get the road built.

"At that point in time, the funding was not available to have this facility built. It's needed. It's needed for the motorists in this area," he said recently while talking to reporters on the empty road.

The Monroe Expressway runs from U.S. 74 at the Mecklenburg line east of 485 to  U.S. 74 in eastern Union County.
Credit N.C. Turnpike Authority
The Monroe Expressway runs from U.S. 74 at the Mecklenburg line east of 485 to U.S. 74 in eastern Union County.

Jernigan said the road skirts the daily backups on U.S. 74 through Monroe.

"It is a way to avoid somewhere around the neighborhood of two dozen traffic signals between Marshville and I-485 in east Charlotte. If motorists want to bypass all or a portion of the congestion between those two points, it gives them an alternative," he said. 

Harvey Kiser works at a convenience store on U.S. 74 in Wingate.

"I think it’s going to help with the traffic flow, cause sometimes it gets jammed up here in Wingate," Kiser said. 

But, he's also concerned about how it might affect business if drivers leave U.S. 74.

"Yeah, hopefully not a lot of it, though. Hopefully, we don’t lose a lot of business," he said.

Drivers will pay automatically using electronic transponders they get from the turnpike authority. They're available online or at the NC Quickpass store in Monroe. Cameras will record the license plates of drivers without transponders and they'll get a bill in the mail, for 35 percent more.

It's the second toll road in the state, after the Triangle Expressway, which opened in 2011.

The road is scheduled to open to traffic after a ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday. 

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.