State highway officials will be in Huntersville on Wednesday to answer the publics questions about planned toll lanes on Interstate 77 from Charlotte to Mooresville.
The state intends to select a private consortium in August to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the lanes. Construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2014, with some segments opening in 2016. The lanes would be the first privately operated toll lanes in North Carolina, and the contract would be for 50 years.
The project calls for adding two toll lanes on northbound and southbound I-77 between the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. Cars with at least three occupants would avoid a toll to use the lanes. One toll lane in each direction would continue between Exit 28 and Exit 36.
Toll rates would vary throughout the day depending on traffic volume, though no rates have been proposed. No toll booths will be required; drivers will pay electronically.
Wednesdays information session will be from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at Huntersville Town Hall, 101 Huntersville-Concord Road.
Jim Trogdon, chief financial officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, will introduce representatives from his department and experts on the design-build concept to answer questions.
The Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission backed the use of toll lanes on I-77 in 2010. Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville and the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization also have backed such lanes. The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce endorsed the idea of managed lanes in 2011.
But the project has generated opposition in recent months from a lake-area community group called Widen I-77 and a Cornelius advisory board that in early January urged the state to consider all options, not only tolls, to pay for expanding the interstate.
The Northcross Property Owners Association, which represents most businesses at I-77 Exit 25 in Huntersville, also opposes the lanes. The association is very concerned that the proposal will be extremely detrimental to business along the I-77 corridor and counterproductive to promoting road use across all economic classes, association Treasurer Alex Kilgour said in a Feb. 12 email.
The debate continued Friday when about 40 business leaders heard from toll lane proponents and opponents at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce in Cornelius.
State Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Huntersville, told the gathering he would take each sides facts and figures to Raleigh on Monday and vet them with DOT and other officials.
Im happy to be used as a conduit to get us to a reasonable and rational decision, he said.
Jeter, meanwhile, announced that he will introduce a bill on Tuesday prohibiting the governors office from transferring money from the states Highway Trust Fund to other uses when the legislature is out of session.