Updated Friday, Aug. 11, 2017
A draft report is out from a consultant reviewing the contract for the I-77 toll lane project north of Charlotte. Mercator Advisors says it would have cost NCDOT at least $149 million to cancel the contract with the private company hired to build and manage the lanes - using figures as of Dec. 31, 2016.
It's likely more now, but an estimate partly depends on how much of a federal loan the contractor has used. Once it has been been fully drawn, the cost would exceed $289 million.
It will be months before NCDOT decides whether to act on recommendations from the consultant. An NCDOT spokeswoman said Friday a final report from Mercator will be out late this summer. And she says the DOT will ask for more public input before making any decisions later this year.
NCDOT signed a $650 million contract with Spanish construction giant Cintra in 2014 to add toll lanes on 26 miles of I-77 from I-277 in Charlotte to Exit 36 in Mooresville. Toll-lane opponents have criticized the contract and pushed the state to cancel the contract.
The draft report made public Thursday offered a range of possible costs for doing that - depending not only on how much the contractor has borrowed, but also on on the timing of any cancellation, how future toll revenues are calculated, and whether costs are included for shutting down or completing the project.
Mercator also outlined other options to cancellation. They included possible contract revisions, such as allowing trucks in toll lanes; allowing two-passenger (instead of three-passenger) vehicles to drive free; and offering frequent user discounts.
Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon ordered the review this spring.
The DOT is seeking public comment on the report, at NCDOT.gov.