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Charlotte Area

Charlotte Regional Transportation Board Considers Options For I-485

Duncan McFadyen

Area leaders are one step closer to deciding whether to open an extra lane on I-485 in south Charlotte. There’s an extra lane of pavement on both sides of the newly-widened section of I-485 between I-77 and Rea Road. The state Department of Transportation opened the highway in December, nearly two years ahead of schedule. The plan had been to keep those lanes closed until the next section of widening is complete, at least four years from now. But many people have complained that it’s silly not to use the extra lane until then.

"Well, you know what they say…no good deed goes unpunished. We delivered the project 23 months ahead of schedule," says DOT Engineer Louis Mitchell, speaking Wednesday night to the Regional Transportation Planning Board. The 32-member group will make the call on whether to keep the lanes closed, open them as carpool lanes, or open them to general traffic.

Mitchell says opening the lanes without any restrictions would likely bump future projects on I-485 in the DOT’s priority list. That’s because the extra lanes are supposed to become high-occupancy toll lanes when the project is finished, and planners factored in toll revenue for funding future projects. Matthews Mayor James Taylor asked if the lanes could be temporarily opened as general purpose and then turned to HOT lanes later

No, say Charlotte City Councilwoman Vi Lyles, "it would literally take an act of Congress." 

None of the commissioners really seemed interested in going that route.

DOT engineer Mitchell says carpool lanes could open in August.

The Transportation Planning Organization’s technical committee, which includes municipal planners, will review the options and make a recommendation to the board next month.