NCDOT Chief Willing To Revise I-77 Toll Lane Contract
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.
On Jan. 20, the organization re-affirmed its support for toll lanes by a wide margin. But some local officials called for canceling the state’s 50-year contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure company Cintra.
I-77 Mobility Partners has begun clearing land and will build operate the two lanes on 26-miles of the interstate from the Brookshire Freeway in north Charlotte to Exit 36 in Mooresville.
The full contract is not up for debate. But Tennyson says in his letter that the DOT could revisit a ban on trucks in the toll lanes, entry and exit points to the new lanes, and other contract details.
“When I spoke at the January 20th meeting of CRTPO, I said that we would be soliciting comments to help improve the project through negotiated changes to the agreement, where possible,” Tennyson said.
The letter went to local representatives on CRTPO, including 21 mayors and 3 county chairs. Tennyson asked for informal feedback on specific issues by March 14.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
We may not be able to satisfy every issue raised, but we want to make certain we are identifying all the potential points of concern. However, we recognize there are aspects of this project for which additional review may yield a better outcome. For example, the policy decision made at the beginning of the project development, in consultation with regional transportation planners, was to restrict the types of vehicles that could use the lanes to vehicles under 20 feet in length (including trailers). We are nearing a point when we can identify the operational effects of allowing longer vehicles, including various sizes of trucks. There may be justification to modifying the vehicle type provision of the contract.
Likewise, the issue of entrance and exit points from the optional toll lanes has been mentioned. This question has been the subject of work since the contract was signed, additional points have been added and we need to make sure we have clearly described those changes. If additional changes are needed, those would be another issue on which modifications would be required.
See the full letter here (PDF).
Feb. 22, 2016, CharlotteObserver.com, "Can scars over I-77 fight be healed?" - A column by the Observer's Eric Frazier reflecting on the current debate over toll lanes.