Cintra

Toll opponents protested on the Exit 28 overpass in Cornelius Friday.
Shelley Rigger / WFAE

A citizens' group's legal fight to halt the I-77 toll lane project north of Charlotte is over. The state Supreme Court has dismissed a last-chance appeal of a suit filed in 2015. But a leader of the anti-toll group says he still hopes politicians will cancel the project.

Exit 23 on I-77 toll lane construction
David Boraks / WFAE

The debate over optional toll lanes on I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville has played out in court, in local elections, and at the Statehouse over the past few years. Now, the lanes are taking shape.

Mark Hames / Charlotte Observer

The battle over toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte has taken another twist.  State officials say they’ll re-assess the toll-lane plan for after a sister company of the NCDOT’s contractor filed bankruptcy in Texas. 

NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson said last night he will go to Texas Monday to meet with transportation officials there to find out more about the bankruptcy. Gov. Pat McCrory's office announced the move in a statement Wednesday night, attributed to Tennyson: 

nick tennyson
David Boraks / WFAE

North Carolina’s transportation secretary says he’s willing to renegotiate parts of the DOT’s contract with a private company to add toll lanes on I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville. Nick Tennyson made the offer in a letter last week to local leaders on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, which sets transportation policy for the region.

Tom Bullock / WFAE

It was a crucial vote about one of the region’s most congested roadways. The Charlotte City Council voted twice Monday night to support toll lanes around the region. And specifically the project on I-77 North now under construction. That vote was 7 to 4. This despite many council members accusing State officials of issuing financial threats if they didn’t approve the project.

David Boraks / CorneliusNews.net

As the debate over toll lanes on I-77 has increased in the last year, the company that will build and operate those tolls had refused to answer WFAE questions about the project until financing was completed. The state announced May 20 that it had closed on those financing agreements with I-77 Mobility Partners.   Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.

With financing complete, the CEO of I-77 Mobility Partners,  Javier Tamargo, agreed to an interview with WFAE’s Mark Rumsey. I-77 Mobility Partners is a subsidiary of the Spanish company Cintra Infrastructures, and has a 50-year contract with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to build, maintain and collect tolls on the expanded lanes from exit 36 in Mooresville to exit 10 near Uptown Charlotte.

The interview lasted roughly 25 minutes. What follows is the interview in its entirety, minus minor edits. Below that is the edited interview that aired during All Things Considered. We’ve also separated the audio for different topics that were discussed.


Michael Tomsic

An anti-toll group filed a lawsuit Tuesday to put the brakes on North Carolina’s solution to horrible traffic on I-77. The group, called Widen I-77, is trying to stop the state Department of Transportation from partnering with a Spanish company to add toll lanes.

Contracts for the construction of toll lanes along I-77 between Exit 11 in Charlotte and Exit 36 in Mooresville have been signed, but strong opposition remains and there’s talk of a lawsuit being filed to stop the project.

The group raising money to file a lawsuit, Widen I-77, points to problems with another toll road in Indiana. The company that runs that road filed for bankruptcy this week.  That company is also part of the same corporation that’s building the toll lanes on I-77.  David Boraks of CorneliusNews.net looked at what went wrong with the Indiana road and joins Morning Edition host Marshall Terry to discuss.