I-77 Toll Lanes

Credit David Boraks / WFAE

Toll lanes — officially called the I-77 Express Lanes — run along Interstate 77 between uptown Charlotte and Lake Norman. The controversial project, managed by I-77 Mobility Partners, is meant to alleviate rush hour traffic. Tolls can be paid by mail, but many heavy users have NC Quick Pass transponders. Tolls also pay for construction. The full 26-mile stretch between Interstate 277 and Exit 36 in Mooresville opened in late 2019.

Toll lanes on I-77 in Cornelius were empty Tuesday morning.
David Boraks / WFAE

If you're one of the few people still commuting on the highways right now, the COVID-19 crisis has a silver lining: No traffic. But that's a concern for operators of the state's toll roads and toll lanes. 

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

Final work on the I-77 Express toll lanes north of Charlotte likely won't be finished until this summer. Contractor I-77 Mobility Partners says cold winter weather has slowed final paving and other work. Meanwhile, the contractor also says it's introducing new technology to catch drivers who break the rules for using the toll lanes for free. 

The Interstate 77 Express Lanes are now open between Charlotte and Mooresville. A CATS commuter bus used the lanes Nov. 14.  CATS says it's currently training drivers and buses will start using the lanes soon.
DAVID BORAKS / WFAE

Charlotte Area Transit System is overhauling its express bus service from Northern Mecklenburg County to take advantage of the Interstate 77 express lanes. CATS says it will replace the three current express bus routes with four new routes next month, under a new name — MetroRAPID. 

Does Anyone Really Know If Tolls Are Helping With NC Metro Congestion?

Dec 17, 2019
Barriers separate free lanes from toll lanes (left) on I-77 north of Charlotte. The northern section of the toll lanes is scheduled to open to traffic on Saturday, June 1.
David Boraks / WFAE

North Carolina, like many other states, has gambled on toll roads as a way to reduce congestion.

While a relatively recent addition to the state’s highways, some estimates say toll roads in the Triangle and Charlotte areas are drawing more drivers than officials initially predicted.

So, how are the toll roads doing at what they were supposed to accomplish — reducing congestion?

David Boraks / WFAE

Charlotte Area Transit System says it's taking steps to let commuter buses use the I-77 Express toll lanes between Charlotte and north Mecklenburg County.

Spokeswoman Jean LeierChief Operating Officer David Hannon of I-77 Mobility Partners, on the ramp from I-77 S to I-277 inner loop.
DAVID BORAKS / WFAE

The Interstate 77 Express Lanes have been under construction for four years north of Charlotte. The toll lanes are now open on all 26 miles between Interstate 277 and Exit 36 in Mooresville, and drivers have all kinds of questions about how they work. 

The Interstate 77 Express Lanes are now open between Charlotte and Mooresville. A CATS commuter bus used the lanes Nov. 14.  CATS says it's currently training drivers and buses will start using the lanes soon.
DAVID BORAKS / WFAE

The final stretch of the Interstate 77 Express toll lanes opened over the weekend, but that doesn't mean the $800 million project is finished. Work is continuing and the North Carolina Department of Transportation is still penalizing the contractor for missing the Nov. 1 deadline. 

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

With no fanfare and 16 days overdue, the final stretch of I-77 Express toll lanes north of Charlotte was scheduled to open at 8 p.m. Saturday.

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

State transportation officials have rejected a contractor's request to extend the deadline for opening the toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte. That means contractor I-77 Mobility Partners will have to pay penalties of $10,000 a day for each incomplete segment beginning Friday. 

Construction is continuing on sections of the I-77 toll lane project near uptown, including ramps to and from I-277.
DAVID BORAKS / WFAE

The Nov. 1 deadline for opening the Interstate 77 Express Lanes north of Charlotte is just days away. But state transportation officials say they have not decided whether to grant the contractor's request for an extension. The company blames additions to the contract for delays, and says that's also adding to its costs.  

Barriers separate free lanes from toll lanes (left) on I-77 north of Charlotte. The northern section of the toll lanes is scheduled to open to traffic on Saturday, June 1.
David Boraks / WFAE

The contractor building toll lanes on I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville is asking for more time to finish the project, which could push construction into next year. The North Carolina Department of Transportation says it is reviewing the request, but hasn't made a decision yet. 

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

Updated July 19, 2019
The idea of converting the shoulders of Interstate 77 in the Lake Norman area into travel lanes lanes at rush hour is a step closer to happening. The area's transportation planning organization approved re-allocating $47 million to the project at its meeting Wednesday night. 

The new CATS commuter buses are more comfortable
CATS

Thousands of drivers a day have been using toll lanes on I-77 for speedier commutes since the first 15-mile section opened in June in the Lake Norman area. But it may be a while before commuter buses are taking advantage of the lanes. 

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

Drivers took a half-million trips on the I-77 Express toll lanes north of Charlotte in June, the first month they were open. But you didn't need to pay a toll to get a faster ride. 

Google Maps

A bridge over Interstate 77 in Huntersville is back open after being closed for two years. 

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.  

Barriers separate free lanes from toll lanes (left) on I-77 north of Charlotte. The northern section of the toll lanes is scheduled to open to traffic on Saturday, June 1.
David Boraks / WFAE

After nearly four years of construction, and months of delays, the northern section of the I-77 toll lanes near Charlotte is scheduled to open Saturday morning, June 1. Beginning at 10 a.m., the I-77 Express Lanes will be open in both directions, from Exit 36 in Mooresville to Hambright Road in Huntersville.

State Rep. Chaz Beasley talks to reporters in Cornelius Monday about a bill he and other lawmakers are poposing to remove what they say are "roadblocks" to renegotiating the I-77 toll lanes contract.
David Boraks / WFAE

State lawmakers from the Charlotte area have filed a bill they say would remove legal "roadblocks" to re-negotiating the contract for toll lanes on Interstate 77.

NCDOT officials told local business and government leaders in Cornelius this Wednesday they are still studying potential changes to the $670 million I-77 toll lanes project from Charlotte to Mooresville. Some of those leaders said afterward they aren't hearing anything new.

The meeting of the DOT's I-77 Local Advisory Committee was supposed to be an update on progress toward changes in the unpopular project. But DOT officials say they have yet to begin negotiating anything with toll-lane builder and operator I-77 Mobility Partners.

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.  

Construction on I-77 toll lanes near I-85 in April.
I-77 Mobility Partners

The contractor behind the I-77 toll lanes has pushed back the date for a portion of the project's opening.

I-77 Mobility Partners said the northern section of the toll lanes, near Hambright Road to Exit 36 in Mooresville, had been set to open by the end of 2018, but delays from weather and a more expansive project forced the company to adjust its open date. That section of toll lanes is now expected to open in the first quarter of 2019.

Steve Harrison / WFAE

In the race for state Senate District 41, Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte and Democrat Natasha Marcus are trying to out-do each other’s opposition to the Interstate 77 toll lanes.

I-77 Mobility Partners leaders listened to speakers at a public hearing Thursday. From left: public affairs director Jean Leier, CEO Javier Tamargo and chief infrastructure officer David Hannon.
David Boraks / WFAE

A rush hour commute on all 26 miles of the toll lanes on I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville will cost up to $6.55 one way when the lanes open later this year - and more later on. The project's contractor announced the rates at a public hearing in Huntersville last night, and hinted that some sections of the project may not open on schedule.

Tolls on the I-77 Express Lanes north of Charlotte will be fixed for the first six months, then fluctuate with traffic volumes after that. An NCDOT video shows what rate signboards will look like.
NCDOT

The contractor building toll lanes on Interstate 77 north of Charlotte will unveil initial toll rates and hear public comments at a meeting Thursday night in Huntersville.

Tolls on the I-77 Express Lanes north of Charlotte will be fixed for the first six months, then fluctuate with traffic volumes after that. An NCDOT video shows what rate signboards will look like.
NCDOT

One of the big questions about the North Carolina Department of Transportation's I-77 toll lane project north of Charlotte is how much will the tolls cost? Expect an answer in two weeks at a public hearing on the rates.

The state of North Carolina is still trying to modify the contract it signed four years ago with a Spanish company to add toll lanes to I-77 from north Charlotte to Mooresville. State officials met last week without coming up with any solutions. Meanwhile, the construction drags on and traffic backs up. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson says the whole deal was based on a flawed premise.

I-77 MOBILITY PARTNERS

Updated Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018
State Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon told Lake Norman area leaders Wednesday that the Department of Transportation cannot buy out its contract with a private company building toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte. 

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.

David Hannon of I-77 Mobility Partners points to ramp construction at the I-277 and I-77 interchange in Charlotte during a tour this week.
David Boraks / WFAE

Construction crews still have lots of work to do before toll lanes can open on I-77 from Charlotte to Mooresville. The question on commuters' minds is: Will they be ready as promised by the end of the year? 

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