I-77

Shoulder lanes are used in Europe and some U.S. states, including I-66 in Virginia.
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION

State transportation officials say they need more time to plan how to convert highway shoulders into extra lanes at rush-hour on I-77 in north Mecklenburg and south Iredell counties. 

Fifteen miles of the I-77 Express Lanes opened Saturday between Huntersville and Mooresville.
David Boraks / WFAE

Toll lanes have been under construction for nearly four years on I-77 from Charlotte to the Lake Norman area. Over the weekend, the northern 15 miles of the project opened to traffic. Monday was the first weekday rush hour with the lanes. Some drivers took advantage of the faster commute, while toll lane opponents continued to fume about the whole idea. WFAE's "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn talked about all this with WFAE reporter David Boraks, who has been covering the project since the planning stages.  

Daniel Coston

Population has boomed in the Lake Norman area towns of Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius. In 1990, the three towns had a total population of about 10,000. Nearly 30 years later, the number of residents has grown tenfold – to more than 100,000.

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.

An aerial view of the I-77 Express Lanes construction near uptown Charlotte in October shows a new westbound ramp under construction from I-277 westbound to I-77 southbound.
I-77 Mobility Partners

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019
A newly constructed ramp from I-277 westbound to I-77 southbound near uptown opened Monday afternoon. The old ramp closed last September and since then drivers have had to detour by going north on the Brookshire Freeway.  

All lanes on northbound I-77 are now open after the state Department of Transportation closed the highway for most of yesterday to make an emergency bridge repair. 

This former high-occupancy lane over I-85 on I-77 southbound will be widened to carry two toll lanes.
David Boraks / WFAE

State Transportation Secretary James Trogdon will be in Cornelius Wednesday afternoon to brief the NCDOT's Local Advisory Group on options for modifying the controversial I-77 toll lanes project. The visit comes three months after most local officials in the group backed their own proposal: Buy out the $650 million contract with the private company building the lanes and convert one toll lane to a free lane.

Workers build concrete barriers along I-77 north of Charlotte, as part of the I-77 Express Lanes project.
I-77 Mobility Partners

State legislation to fund a possible buyout or changes to the North Carolina Department of Transportation's I-77 toll lane project near Charlotte has died. That's according to state Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Cornelius), who wrote a key amendment to provide the funding.  

An aerial view shows toll lane construction on I-77 at I-277 near uptown Charlotte.
I-77 Mobility Partners


  Updated 4:03 p.m.
North Carolina lawmakers say they've come up with a way to pay for canceling or modifying NCDOT's contract with a private company building toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte. But NCDOT officials have warned there may be problems with the idea.

The NCDOT's I-77 Local Advisory Committee met Thursday in Cornelius.
David Boraks / WFAE

The private contractor building toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte says revising or ending its contract will cost a lot more than what's been discussed at an NCDOT advisory committee in recent months.  That warning came in letters from I-77 Mobility Partners to the DOT.  

Toll opponents protested on the Exit 28 overpass in Cornelius Friday.
Shelley Rigger / WFAE

A citizens' group's legal fight to halt the I-77 toll lane project north of Charlotte is over. The state Supreme Court has dismissed a last-chance appeal of a suit filed in 2015. But a leader of the anti-toll group says he still hopes politicians will cancel the project.

I-77 exit 28 in Cornelius
David Boraks / WFAE

NCDOT says it's months away from a deciding whether to act on consultant’s report on whether to cancel, revise or keep a contract to build toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte. That’s leaving some wondering if the DOT will act before the toll lanes are finished next year.

An NCDOT traffic camera showed I-77 northbound at Mile 21 jammed around 2 p.m. on May 12 because of work on the damaged sign near Exit 31.
NCDOT

NCDOT has fined the lead contractor on the I-77 toll lanes project $412,500 for daytime lane closures after construction accident in Mooresville last month that caused a day-long traffic jam. The DOT notified I-77 Mobility Partners of the penalty in a letter Thursday.

An NCDOT traffic camera showed I-77 northbound at Mile 21 jammed around 2 p.m. on May 12 because of work on the damaged sign near Exit 31.
NCDOT

Updated 4:15 p.m.
A truck driver who struck an overhead sign while working on the I-77 widening project in Mooresville last week is facing charges after police found he did not have a valid license. The accident led to a day-long backup on the interstate and side roads in the Lake Norman area.

The ramp onto I-77 north from LaSalle Street will close for about a year so it can be widened and extended.
David Boraks / WFAE

The LaSalle Street on-ramp to I-77 northbound will be closed for up to a year beginning Wednesday night. It's part of a project to add optional toll lanes from Charlotte to Mooresville. 

New signs and pavement markings are planned for the toll lane work zone on I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville.
David Boraks / WFAE

The North Carolina Department of Transportation plans new signs and other safety improvements on I-77, in the construction zone for toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville.

NCDOT announced the changes Friday, after a recent inspection by its top traffic engineers. That review came after recent complaints from drivers about wrecks in the work zone.

Traffic safety experts will study crashes along I-77 north of Charlotte, where workers are building toll lanes. The state Department of Transportation also says it’s considering changes in the work zones, including lower speed limits.

The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado did strike southwest Charlotte this week. The service says the tornado hit Wednesday evening with maximum winds of 90 miles per hour, causing damage along a 1.5 mile stretch of John Price Road, and along a 0.5 mile stretch from Microsoft Way to West Arrowood.

I-77 toll lanes map at I-277.
I-77 Mobility Partners

Toll-lane construction has been going on for a year now on I-77 from Huntersville to Mooresville. Now it's starting on the stretch of I-77 near uptown Charlotte. That means lane closures and traffic shifts ahead.

Maps show a change in Pat McCrory's support in Mecklenburg County between 2012 and 2016. Red is Republican (McCrory) and Blue is Roy Cooper (Democrat).
N.C. State Board of Elections

Democrat Roy Cooper is claiming victory in his bid to unseat Governor Pat McCrory, though results aren’t final. If he loses, the governor can trace the defeat in part to Mecklenburg County. Changing voting patterns and his stand on controversial issues, including I-77 tolls, have eroded the former Charlotte mayor’s popularity at home. 

Charlotte's roads are jammed, but the McCrory administration says the state's new road funding formula will help.
David Boraks / WFAE

House Bill 2, Voter ID and coal ash cleanups are headline-grabbing issues in the governor’s race. Roads? Not so much. But the McCrory administration is touting success in changing the way North Carolina builds roads.

David Boraks / WFAE

  The head of the NCDOT says a bill canceling a contract for toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte could cost the state $800 million - and may not prevent the state from using tolls. The cost includes cancellation penalties as well as money for the DOT to complete the project by itself.  

http://www.ncdot.gov

Updated Thursday, 4 p.m. 

The state House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill calling on NCDOT to cancel the I-77 widening project north of Charlotte. The bill now goes to the Senate, where Senate leaders have said they don't see a need to cancel the project.

Gov. Pat McCrory and the DOT have said they're committed to the $650 million contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Spain-based Cintra. The company started grading and other work last November.

Updated 5:35 p.m.
State Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville says he’ll file a bill when the legislature’s short session opens Monday to cancel the NCDOT’s contract to add toll lanes to I-77. But Senate Leader Phil Berger said later he doesn't see any need to do that. 

Jeter says he promised to file the bill back in January when he urged Charlotte City Council to oppose the contact with Spain-based Cintra. The council reaffirmed its support, despite an outcry against tolls from the Lake Norman area north of Charlotte.

NCDOT

I-77 Mobility Partners plans to start construction Monday on the project to add high-occupancy toll lanes on I-77 between uptown Charlotte and the Lake Norman area. The project includes proposed noise walls along sections of the highway. WFAE’s Duncan McFadyen reports people who own property close to the walls will get another say in whether or not they’re built.


David Boraks / CorneliusNews.net file photo

Some state lawmakers are stepping up efforts to halt the construction of toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte, as construction begins Monday. They called on Governor Pat McCrory Friday to cancel the project, but he wasted little time in rejecting the idea.  

David Boraks / CorneliusNews.net

As the debate over toll lanes on I-77 has increased in the last year, the company that will build and operate those tolls had refused to answer WFAE questions about the project until financing was completed. The state announced May 20 that it had closed on those financing agreements with I-77 Mobility Partners.   Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.

With financing complete, the CEO of I-77 Mobility Partners,  Javier Tamargo, agreed to an interview with WFAE’s Mark Rumsey. I-77 Mobility Partners is a subsidiary of the Spanish company Cintra Infrastructures, and has a 50-year contract with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to build, maintain and collect tolls on the expanded lanes from exit 36 in Mooresville to exit 10 near Uptown Charlotte.

The interview lasted roughly 25 minutes. What follows is the interview in its entirety, minus minor edits. Below that is the edited interview that aired during All Things Considered. We’ve also separated the audio for different topics that were discussed.


Tom Bullock/WFAE News

Mecklenburg County commissioners resoundingly approved a resolution Tuesday urging Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s transportation department to delay by 90 days next week’s closing of a financial contract to build toll lanes on Interstate 77.

John D. Simmons / Charlotte Observer

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s contract with a private developer to build toll lanes on Interstate 77 includes a controversial noncompete clause that could hinder plans to build new free lanes on the highway for 50 years.

The clause has long been part of the proposed contract. But it was changed in late 2013 or early 2014 to also include two new free lanes around Lake Norman – an important $431 million project supported by local transportation planners.

I-77 Toll Road

Sep 16, 2014
NCDOT / Flickr/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Charlotte is about to get its first toll road. It appears the deal is done despite ongoing opposition. A private company will build toll lanes on I-77 and have the rights to operate them for 50 years. This costly project will include the replacement of several bridges to accommodate the lanes. We talk to North Carolina Department of Transportation officials about the toll lanes. 

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