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State Names Top Bidder For I-77 Widening

A long awaited project to widen I-77 north of Charlotte could start as early as December, state officials said Friday. The North Carolina Department of Transportation said Friday that a partnership led by a Spanish company that specializes in toll lanes is the apparent winning bidder on the project.

The company, Cintra, estimates it will cost $665 million to add lanes, including so-called high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes, to 26 miles of the traffic-clogged road from I-277 north to Exit 36 in Mooresville. Our news partner DavidsonNews.net reports that's higher than the $500 million to $550 million dollars that state transportation officials previously estimated.

But the state's contribution would be lower. The state would contribute $88 million dollars, about half the $170 million dollars originally expected. 

Local officials in the Lake Norman area cheered the news, saying it’s a sign the widening project is moving forward.  The DOT still must review Cintra’s proposal, but officials said Friday they hope to sign a contract in June, and construction could start as early as December. The new lanes could be completed in 2018.


More people are traveling through Charlotte Douglas airport these days. Airport officials said passenger traffic rose 1.3 percent in the first two months of 2014, compared with last year.  International passenger helped push the growth, rising 1.9 percent from a year earlier.  Cargo numbers were down 3.3 percent. See the report on CharMeck.org.


Hundreds of people got Hepatitis A vaccinations Friday and Saturday at clinics set up by the Mecklenburg County Health Department.  Vaccine clinics will continue today and tomorrow as officials respond to the news that an employee of an east Charlotte pizza restaurant tested positive for the virus. The department says people who ordered from the Papa Johns on Cambridge Commons Drive between March 24 and April 7 may have been exposed to the virus. Another clinic is planned this afternoon from 1 to 5 at Central Piedmont Community College’s Cato Campus, on Grier Road. Vaccines also will be available Monday at the health department offices in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties. Find out more about the vaccination clinics and hepatitis on the Mecklenburg Health Department website.


The North Carolina Supreme Court will review the cases of four defendants who had their death sentences commuted to life in prison, under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act. The Fayetteville Observer reports that the court will hear arguments Monday on whether a Cumberland County judge made the right decision in removing the defendants from death row because their cases were tainted by racism. The Racial Justice Act has since been repealed.  Three of the prisoners are black men and the other a Lumbee Indian woman.  The defendants were the only death row inmates to have presented evidence to a judge under the Racial Justice Act.


A new $4 million water tank in Rock Hill will be designed to both supply drinking water and also attract visitors.   The Herald of Rock Hill reports city leaders plan to put colored LED lights on the 750,000-gallon tank and build both a brick fence around it and a visitor parking lot.   City Manager David Vehaun says it will be the kind of thing that people will show friends and neighbors when they visit Rock Hill.  The city will pay for the lights with about 300,000 dollars of  hospitality tax money. That money is supposed to be used for projects that help attract visitors.


The top editor of Southern Living magazine has been elected chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.  Lindsay Bierman, who has been editor in chief at the magazine for the past four years, was elected by the UNC Board of Governors on Friday. He succeeds James Moeser, the former chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill who has been interim head of the School of the Arts since June.  Bierman trained as an architect and, in addition to being a magazine editor, has been a designer and business executive.  He starts the new job in August, and will make $225,000 a year.