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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

What to Know about Toll Roads

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If you’re a commuter in the greater Charlotte area, or if you’ve ever tried to get somewhere during peak commuting times, you know it ain’t pretty. The population has spiked in this area over the last decade, and, as a result, so has the traffic on I-77.
 
In response to the current traffic situation (and projections), NCDOT is implementing a “managed lanes project” that will add tolled express lanes to 26 miles of I-77 running both directions from the Brookshire Freeway (Exit 11) in Mecklenburg County to N.C. 150 (Exit 36) in Iredell County. The current HOV lane will be converted to an express lane, and an additional express lane will be constructed next to it on both sides to Exit 28 (with just one express lane continuing to Exit 36). Motorists will have multiple opportunities to enter the toll lanes along the route.
 
The express lanes, also called HOT lanes (High Occupancy Toll), will be free to motorcyclists, busses, and carpoolers with three or more occupants.  All other drivers may opt to use the express lanes for a fee, and that fee can vary based on levels of congestion. This system will help relieve traffic congestion while allowing motorists to choose whether they want to pay, according to NCDOT.
 
How much will this convenience cost you? The toll amount remains TBD, but one study suggested a full 26-mile commute at peak hours could cost $9-$12.
 
Over the last several years, NCDOT has hosted multiple public hearings, workshops, and meetings with city leaders and business organizations. While the project has garnered much support, there also are strong voices in opposition. A citizen group called Widen I-77 has filed an injunction to stop the toll lane project, wanting more general purpose lanes instead of toll lanes. Hearings begin this week.
 
If funding is secured and the project moves ahead as planned, construction should begin this year and is expected to end in 2018. By executing the $655 million project through a public-private partnership, NCDOT is able to get the project started now, using revenue from investors and future tolls, rather than having to wait for the state to secure funding, which could take up to 20 years.
 
So stay tuned commuters, and in the meantime, keep the coffee flowing, especially when the traffic is not.

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