MONROE – The Monroe Expressway recorded more than a million transactions in its first month of operation, according to the N.C. Turnpike Authority.
The highway opened to traffic Nov. 27 after nearly three decades of discussions, planning and construction.
The west end of the four-lane electronic toll road begins just past the U.S. 74 interchange with I-485 near the Mecklenburg-Union County line and runs 18 miles through Union County before ending near Marshville. There are six full interchanges and two partial interchanges near the end of the 65-mph highway. Three of the interchanges are in Monroe and two are in Indian Trail.
The toll road can save at least 15 to 20 minutes on average while avoiding 25 traffic signals along U.S. 74. Studies before the road opened showed about half of the current traffic that travels on U.S. 74 will eventually use the expressway. Before the expressway opened, about 20 percent of the traffic on U.S. 74 was commercial truck traffic.
In its first month of operation, the expressway was averaging about 60,000 transactions a day with a high of about 65,000 around Christmas. A transaction is recorded every time a vehicle travels under one of the seven toll gantries along the highway. If every vehicle drove the entire length of the expressway, then about 8,600 vehicles are using the Monroe Expressway daily.
The N.C. Turnpike Authority said 90 percent of the vehicles traveling on the new road are traditional passenger vehicles. The remaining 10 percent are three- and four-axle vehicles, which are semi-trucks and trucks with trailers.
“In the first month, truck traffic on the Monroe Expressway is outpacing the early months on the Triangle Expressway,” said N.C Turnpike Authority Communications Manager Carly Olexik.
About 30 percent of the transactions occurring on the Monroe Expressway are done with a transponder while the rest are billed through the mail. Of those using the new road with a transponder, 67 percent are N.C. Quick Pass customers and 33 percent are vehicles with transponders from other states. The use of a transponder will save drivers 35-percent versus being billed by mail.
Olexik said she expects billing through the use of transponders to increase in the coming months.
“As with the Triangle Expressway, N.C. Quick Pass usage should increase over time as customers see the benefits of saving time and money with the program,” Olexik said. “In November and December alone, we distributed around 45,000 transponders, which is more than what was distributed during the first year of the Triangle Expressway in 2012. We are excited to see how the community continues to embrace the Monroe Expressway.”
The N.C. Turnpike Authority also reported that approximately 80 percent of the vehicles using the Monroe Expressway are from North Carolina.
Tolls for a two-axle vehicle going the length of the Expressway one way are $2.54 with a N.C. Quick Pass or $3.92 if billed by mail. Tolls for three and four-axle vehicles are 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.
Revenue collected from tolls will stay in Union County. Revenue will be used to maintain the Monroe Expressway and reduce the debt incurred to build the $731 million highway. If there is a surplus in any given year, that money would be stay in the county.
Since invoices from the first month were just mailed, the N.C. Turnpike Authority said it would not have good revenue data for another few months.
Go to www.myncquickpass.com for details on paying tolls.