CorneliusNews.net
12:14 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

MUMPO Meetings This Week Seek Comment On I-77 HOT Lanes

Traffic on I-77, Sunday afternoon.
Traffic on I-77, Sunday afternoon.
Credit David Boraks / CorneliusNews.net

  A formal public comment period is open through April 22 on the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to widen I-77 north of Charlotte by adding high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes. The Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) plans public meetings Wednesday in Huntersville and Thursday in Charlotte as part of its effort to gather input on the plan.

The DOT has proposed a half-billion-dollar project to improve I-77 between I-227 in Charlotte and Exit 36 in Mooresville, in part by adding toll lanes, or “managed lanes.”

MUMPO is a regional planning organization that helps set priorities for transportation projects. The organization is now formally considering the proposal to amend its 2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and 2012-2018 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to incorporate the DOT’s I-77 plan. The 30-day public comment period ends Monday, April 22.

State officials say tolls are the best way to help pay for the widening project now, instead of waiting 15 years or more for funding through the DOT’s normal process. Besides generating revenues the project, by incorporating tolls, would qualify for federal and state funds not otherwise available for general purpose (non-toll) lanes, officials say.

HOT LANES

The state plans to convert existing lanes or construct new lanes on the highway, creating high-occupancy toll lanes from I-277 in Charlotte north to Exit 36 in Mooresville. Two HOT lanes would be built in each direction between Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. One HOT lane would be added in each direction between Cornelius and Mooresville, a section that includes two causeways over Lake Norman.

Drivers would not have to use the HOT lanes, but could choose them when congestion increases. Tolls would rise as traffic grows, to ensure that the HOT lanes don’t get too crowded. As a consultant explained at another LNTC meeting in Cornelius last month, the goal of the project is to guarantee a reliable ride to and from Charlotte, not necessarily to relieve congestion in all the lanes. Tolls would be assessed using an electronic radio-frequency toll system.

The state hopes to pick a private partner this summer. Construction could begin in 2015, and the first stretch of widened road would be open in 2017, officials said Wednesday night.

DOT officials estimate the project would cost $500 million to $550 million with toll lanes. The state expects to put in up to $170 million, mainly from federal funds designated for projects that require toll lanes. The contract with a private partner would be 50 years.

Critics of the DOT’s plan, including the Cornelius-based citizens group Widen I-77, say the HOT lanes project is too expensive, won’t relieve congestion, and would lock the state into a contract for too long. They’d like to see the state use its contribution – estimated at about $170 million – to construct a much smaller project from Exits 23 to 36.

This week’s MUMPO meetings are open to the public. More information is available on the I-77 project page at MUMPO.org There’s also a link on that page to send comments electronically, and information about how to file comments by mail or fax.

OTHER TRANSPORTATION MEETINGS

They’re among a series of meetings around the region this week offering residents a chance to comment on various transportation-related plans. Other sessions will look at the proposed 30-mile Mooresville-to-Charlotte Red Line walking-biking trail and a new pedestrian plan for the town of Davidson. Here’s the schedule:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10,

I-77 HOT lanes public input meeting, 5-7pm, CPCC-Merancas Campus, Belk Center Auditorium, 11920 Verhoeff Dr., Huntersville – Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) will host a meeting to collect public input on a proposal to amend the region’s long-range transportation plan to widen I-77 using high-occupancy toll lanes. MUMPO is in the midst a formal public comment period, through April 22. A similar meeting is planned Thursday in Charlotte. See more on MUMPO.org

Lake Norman Transportation Commission, 6:30pm, Huntersville Town Hall, 101 Huntersville-Concord Road, Huntersville – Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission (LNTC), a joint agency of the towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and Mooresville, will hold its regular monthly meeting. The meeting will report results of a recent survey to gauge citizens’ transportation priorities. www.lakenormantrans.org

Red Line Trail information session, 5-7pm, Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation office building, Cardinal Conference Room, 5841 Brookshire Blvd., Charlotte – Area towns and Mecklenburg County officials will host a public information meeting about the proposed Red Line Trail, a 30-mile walking and biking trail between Mooresville and Charlotte. See more in our preview, “Community meetings planned on Mooresville-to-Charlotte trail” Second of three meetings.

THURSDAY, APRIL 11

Pedestrian plan workshop, 9am to 4pm, Davidson Town Hall board room, 216 S. Main St. – Public workshop on the town of Davidson’s proposed pedestrian master plan. Consultants and steering committee members will be working in an open studio setting and having meetings with stakeholder focus groups. Citizens are welcome to drop in to learn about the project and provide input to the steering committee. Read more: “Put in your two cents on walking and biking in town.” Continues Friday.

Red Line Trail information session, 5-7pm, Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave., Cornelius – Area towns and Mecklenburg County officials will host a public information meeting about the proposed Red Line Trail, a 30-mile walking and biking trail between Mooresville and Charlotte. See more in our preview, “Community meetings planned on Mooresville-to-Charlotte trail” Third of of three meetings. (Also 4/2 and 4/10)

I-77 HOT lanes public input session, 5-7pm, Oaklawn Academy, 1810 Oaklawn Ave., Charlotte – Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) will host a meeting to collect public input on a proposal to amend the region’s long-range transportation plan to widen I-77 using high-occupancy toll lanes. MUMPO is in the midst a formal public comment period, through April 22. A similar meeting is planned Wednesday in Huntersville. See more on MUMPO.org

FRIDAY, APRIL 12

Pedestrian plan workshop, 9am to 1pm, Davidson Town Hall board room, 216 S. Main St. – Day 2 of a public workshop on the town of Davidson’s proposed pedestrian master plan. Consultants and steering committee members will be working in an open studio setting and having meetings with stakeholder focus groups. Citizens are welcome to drop in to learn about the project and provide input to the steering committee. Read more: “Put in your two cents on walking and biking in town.” Begins Thursday.

RELATED COVERAGE

See previous stories about I-77 on CorneliusNews.net.