NCDOT Defends I-77 Toll Lanes, But Key Questions Remain Unanswered
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is hoping to relieve congestion on I-77 by adding two toll lanes. NCDOT officials came to the Charlotte Chamber Wednesday to talk up the project, but as WFAE’s Nick de la Canal reports, there are still basic questions that haven’t been answered.
DOT officials made a hard sell to the Regional Transportation Committee Wednesday for adding toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville on I-77.
“It gives people a choice to pay to use a managed lane, or to remain in the general purpose lane free of charge,” says DOT Secretary Tony Tata, “and choice is always a good thing.”
“It allows citizens in this state and this region to live where they want to, take their children to school where they want to, work where they want to, and not be held captive by traffic,” says past U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters,
“This is obviously the future,” says DOT Board of Transportation Chairman Ned Curran.
A Spanish company called Cintra Infraestructuras would take on most of the cost to build the lanes, and in exchange collect the tolls.
After the presentation, a number of questions from reporters went unanswered, including how much those tolls would cost.
An estimate from a DOT consultant in 2012 predicted a morning rush-hour toll from Mooresville to Charlotte could cost $9 when the lanes open, and an afternoon rush-hour toll could be more than $11. The DOT says that estimate is outdated, but it’s not giving any clues to how much it expects tolls to actually cost.
A citizens group opposed to the toll lanes plans to hold a meeting to discuss alternate options Thursday night at Cornelius Town Hall.
The state and Cintra have already signed preliminary contracts, but the citizens group, called Widen I-77, hopes it can apply enough pressure to stop the deal.