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Charlotte Area

NCDOT Says It's Up To Regional Transportation Board To Open Another Lane On I-485

Mark Hames
Charlotte Observer

Interstate 485 in south Charlotte is now one lane wider in both directions. But there’s enough new pavement on the highway to open an additional lane on both sides. The North Carolina Department of Transportation says it’s up to a local board to decide whether to open those lanes sooner than was originally planned.  

The first phase of a widening project opened one additional lane in each direction in December. And the contractor laid enough pavement for another lane. But it’s blocked off with orange barrels. City Councilwoman Vi Lyles says that hasn’t gone over well with some drivers.

"People are looking at it, they’re driving by it every day, and they’re thinking,'why can’t I get on that road?'" Lyles says.

The plan, adopted by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, is for the unopened lane to become a toll lane when the second phase of the I-485 project opens in 2019 or 2020. The DOT says building it now saved taxpayers between $15 and $18 million.

State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata told City Council it’s up to the Regional Transportation Planning board to open the lanes early. The simplest option is to open them as carpool lanes for now and convert them to toll lanes later. Another more complicated option is to open the lanes as general purpose, but that would jeopardize funding for future I-485 projects.

Engineers from the DOT will meet with the Regional Transportation Planning Organization in the coming weeks. The DOT says the earliest it could have the lanes open would be August. That’s if the board decides to open them as carpool lanes.