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Charlotte Area

NCDOT Puts $900M Price Tag On U.S. 74 Widening With Toll Lanes

Residents examined section maps of the planned U.S. 74 widening project Tuesday at CPCC in Matthews.
David Boraks
Residents examined section maps of the planned U.S. 74 widening project Tuesday at CPCC in Matthews.

The state Department of Transportation says widening a congested 6 1/2 mile stretch of U.S. 74/Independence Boulevard in southeast Charlotte could cost at least $900 million. The work will begin in a couple of years and include one toll lane in each direction, additional free lanes and a network of parallel roads between Idlewild Road and Interstate 485 in Matthews. 

Many current streets that now connect to Independence will be closed, some replaced by overpasses. 

Map shows the area of the US 74/Independence widening.
Credit NCDOT
Map shows the area of the US 74/Independence widening.

"It's a big project for us. It's one of the largest that we've worked here in the Charlotte area," said Brett Canipe, the NCDOT engineer for the Charlotte region.

NCDOT says population growth is expected to overwhelm the heavily traveled road by 2040, when it won't be able to handle the projected increase in traffic. 

Canipe and other DOT officials showed off preliminary plans for the project at a public meeting Tuesday night at Central Piedmont Community College's Levine Campus in Matthews. Canipe said officials are gathering feedback as the finalize their plans. 

A trickle of residents came to the three-hour session, including Ivan Johnson, who said he commutes to uptown Charlotte every day from Matthews. 

"I was aware that eventually from 485 to uptown would be essentially an expressway, with standard sort of interchanges expressways, which is really what it needs, because there's so many people living out in Union County now trying to get up to uptown. And we essentially have a retail corridor handling interstate traffic and it's ridiculous," Johnson said.

Johnson says he hopes the work relieves enough traffic that he won't have to pay to use the toll lane. And he's worried it will be harder to access his favorite businesses once connecting roads are closed. But overall, he thinks the project looks like a good tradeoff for a faster commute. 

NCDOT will own the lanes and they'll be managed by the N.C. Turnpike Authority. 

NCDOT says land purchases along the road are expected to begin next year and construction is scheduled to start in 2022. NCDOT says it will start with parallel roads, to provide an alternate route for traffic once construction begins on Independence. The project could be completed by 2026.

The single toll lane in each direction would be the latest in a planned network of so-called Express Lanes in the Charlotte area. Toll lanes operated by a private company already operate on I-77 from Charlotte to the Lake Norman area. Construction has begun on toll lanes on I-485 in south Charlotte. And they're planned for I-77 south of uptown.  NCDOT also operates a toll road - the Monroe Expressway - which skirts congested U.S. 74 in Union County, 

A second public meeting is scheduled Wednesday from 4 to 7 pm at Ovens Auditorium, off Independence Boulevard in Charlotte. 


More about the US 74 widening project at NCDOT.gov 

Online comments are being accepted through Feb. 29 at www.publicinput.com/US-74-Independence-Charlotte