Local officials are becoming frustrated with the pace of construction on a portion of Interstate 77 in the Charlotte area.
The Charlotte Observer reports the N.C. Department of Transportation told an advisory group at a recent meeting that the agency plans to conclude negotiations with the private company building and operating the toll lanes by spring. Possible changes could be presented to the legislature in the summer. The legislature would then be required to approve any changes to the contract.
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The group has been meeting for more than a year. Some members of the group, which includes opponents to the toll lanes, were told in August that the NCDOT was developing a series of steps to improve the 26-mile project. Possible changes include opening the shoulders to traffic during peak congestion, coming up with a frequent user rebate and finding a way to make the pricing structure more transparent as the cost of tolls varies throughout the day.
Group members had been expecting to hear details last Wednesday on what the state will do, and how it will eventually move toward state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon's goal of buying I-77 Mobility Partners out of its contract and putting the toll lanes entirely under public control. Instead, those details could come at the advisory group's next meeting in late summer or early fall.
"I was surprised and disappointed," said Kurt Naas, a Cornelius commissioner and long-time toll opponent, after the meeting. "They basically presented the same thing that happened in August. What's been going on the last six months? We don't have costs, we don't have time frames, we don't have anything."
The 26-mile project was expected to open by the end of 2018. Now, I-77 Mobility Partners, the subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure firm Cintra, which is building the toll lanes and will collect revenue for 50 years, says the northern part of the project is expected to open by spring. That stretch covers from Interstate 485 to Mooresville.
The rest of the $670 million project, from downtown Charlotte to I-485, should be open by the end of October.