The N.C. Department of Transportation said this week it will spend the summer analyzing a private proposal made last year to build a $2 billion toll lane expansion of Interstate 77 between uptown and the S.C. state line, with a decision to follow on whether to keep the proposal as an option for the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
Whatever the governing body, known as CRTPO, decides would only determine whether the private proposal remains under consideration.
CRTPO and the state transportation department will continue to examine both private and traditional, taxpayer-funded options no matter the verdict on the proposal from Cintra, the parent company of I-77 Mobility Partners.
I-77 Mobility is the company behind the $650 million, 26-mile toll lanes project between uptown and Mooresville.
Trying to solve traffic congestion for commuters traveling between South Carolina suburbs and uptown Charlotte dates to 2007, when the regional governing body began studying the issue. In 2014, CRTPO decided that, if it expands I-77 along the southern corridor, it would do so using toll lanes to manage traffic flow and guarantee more efficient travel times through demand-based pricing.
According to CRTPO and the state, a traditionally funded expansion — that is, paid for by the state and operated by the N.C. Turnpike Authority — is unlikely to occur before 2045, based on spending caps and available transportation revenue. Choosing a private option would likely accelerate that schedule by a decade or more.
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VIDEO: County commissioners vote 6-3 in favor of CRTPO continuing study of I-77 toll proposal