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Charlotte Area

Contractor Completes I-77 Toll Lane Work In Lake Norman Area; 2 Segments Remain

Fifteen miles of the I-77 Express Lanes opened Saturday between Huntersville and Mooresville.
David Boraks
The Interstate 77 toll lanes run 26 miles from Charlotte to Mooresville.

Construction is finally done on the northern section of the Interstate 77 toll lanes in the Lake Norman area north of Charlotte — eight months behind schedule. But the remaining two segments still aren't finished.  

The North Carolina Department of Transportation certified the milestone July 15 in a letter to contractor I-77 Mobility Partners. NCDOT also assessed a $2.6 million penalty against the company for missing the Nov. 1, 2019, deadline. 

Penalties are still adding up for the two remaining sections, which run from Huntersville to Charlotte. An I-77 Mobility Partners spokesperson says paving, construction of noise walls and other work is continuing, though the central section is nearly done as well. 

Under its contract with NCDOT, the company must pay $10,000 a day for each section not finished by the deadline. Altogether, fines now total nearly $8 million. 

NCDOT has said the penalties are known technically as "liquidated damages." I-77 Mobility Partners doesn't pay NCDOT. Instead, penalties are subtracted from the $95 million that the state of North Carolina has agreed to pay toward the project. 

Toll Lanes Added 

Interstate 77 is the main commuter route between the Lake Norman area and Charlotte. Planning for the 26-mile project to add optional toll lanes, or "high occupancy toll lanes," began a decade ago as congestion on the highway increased.

I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Spanish construction giant Cintra, began construction in November 2015.

Two toll lanes were built in each direction, from Interstate 277 in Charlotte north to Exit 28 in Cornelius, and one toll lane from there north to Exit 36 in Mooresville. The lanes fully opened last November, but many aspects of the project weren't done, including final paving. 

The now-fully completed segment runs from Exit 30 in Cornelius to Exit 36 in Mooresville. The other two sections from I-277 to Interstate 85 and from I-85 to Cornelius. 

The contractor originally estimated the project would cost $650 million. Officials said last year the cost had risen to about $800 million.  Cintra is paying part of the cost. Private investors and federal loans make up most of the rest.