MONROE, NC (WBTV) - The Monroe Expressway is finally open, which is a huge deal for those that live in and commute through Union County. The idea had been talked about for decades, and now that the roadway is finally open, it’s even hard for some to believe.
“Well in the 90s, I believed that this magical roadway was more of a myth," said Wingate University President, Rhett Brown. "Now here we are today, in 2018, a beautiful economic stimulus package, no longer a unicorn but a reality for our community and our county.”
The excitement was clear at the official ribbon cutting for the tollway Tuesday morning. It took about three years to build and $731 million, but county officials say it was worth every minute, and every penny.
“To Monroe, it is our opportunity to continue to prosper, to improve our quality of life, to provide additional career diversity, to correct and balance, and to live healthier,” said Chris Plate, with Monroe-Union County Economic Development.
Drivers began taking the expressway shortly after lunchtime Tuesday. Officials say those that use it will save an average of 20 minutes of commute time each way, giving them the ability to bypass 27 different intersections that they’d otherwise be sitting at on US-74.
It will cost drivers, though, anywhere from 26 cents to close to four dollars, depending on how many exits they pass, and whether or not they have a toll pass, but for those who have spent years sitting in traffic, it’s well worth it.
For local businesses, the arrival of the Expressway is cause for cautious optimism. Spiro Kaltsounis, owner of the long-open Hilltop Restaurant, said he, “hopes it will help”, to have the new roadway available nearby and could potentially bring in more customers from Indian Trail and Matthews in particular. “I think it’s a good day for the county and I hope it’s a good day for me and everybody else in this stretch.”
Tammy Massey, the assistant manager of Market Express also seemed confident that the Expressway wouldn’t hurt their business, noting that, “I don’t think it’s going to hurt our business very much because most of our business is local or coming down 601 so I don’t think it’s going to hurt very much. I think we’ll be the same”.
For more information on the Monroe Expressway, its costs and how to get a toll pass, visit their website here.