State transportation officials have delayed awarding a contract for Interstate 77 toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville until next summer. But they say construction is still set to begin in summer 2014, with some segments opening in 2016.
This delay is in receiving the bids, said Greer Beaty, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Raleigh. We dont see any delay with the timetable for construction.
The state originally expected to award a contract this fall for a private contractor to finance, design, build and operate the lanes, former DOT engineer Barry Moose told the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission in June.
Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe said DOT set a very aggressive timetable for awarding the contract one he felt couldnt have been met given the work required to assemble such a bid package, drafts of which are about 1,500 pages.
The delay allows the state to complete environmental documents that contractor teams will need to bid on the project, said Victor Barbour, DOT technical services administrator. The delay also gives potential bidders time to understand all of the financial tools that will be available to help fund the work, he said.
I-77s high-occupancy vehicle lanes would be converted to toll lanes as part of the project, the aim of which is to reduce congestion. Cars with at least three occupants would avoid a toll to use the lanes.
The toll lanes would be the first in North Carolina, as are I-77s HOV lanes.
The project calls for adding two toll lanes on both northbound and southbound I-77 between the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius, Moose has said. One toll lane in each direction would continue between Exit 28 and Exit 36 (N.C. 150) in Mooresville.
The causeways over Lake Norman arent wide enough to accommodate two high occupancy toll lanes in each direction north of Exit 28, he said.
The project calls for building all toll-lane segments from Charlotte to Mooresville at the same time. Toll rates would vary throughout the day depending on traffic volume.
No toll booths will be required; drivers will pay electronically. Cameras would spot whether toll-lane drivers had enough occupants to avoid a toll. Violators would be mailed a bill.
State Highway Patrol troopers also would look out for violators at unannounced times, transportation officials have said.
Project may need subsidy
The overall project cost hasnt been set, but a one-time taxpayer subsidy of $25 million to $110 million could be required, Moose has said. He has said the toll revenues might not be enough to finance the entire project.
Any subsidy would come from DOT funds and wouldnt require legislative approval, said Mitch Abraham, a former Mooresville commissioner and former member of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission.
Barbour said four contractor teams are on the short list for the project. In July or August of next year, well declare a winner, he said.