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Legislator opposes I-77 tolls

MOORESVILLE A second Charlotte-area state representative on Sunday announced his opposition to planned Interstate 77 toll lanes.

“When you’re driving down a road that you already paid for, you shouldn’t be taxed again with a toll,” State Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, told members of Widen I-77, a Lake Norman-area citizens group fighting the state’s $550 million toll road plan. The project calls for a private contractor to design, build and operate toll lanes from the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte to I-77 Exit 36 in Mooresville.

At a news conference, Pittman joined State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, Iredell County commissioner Renee Griffith, Cornelius commissioner Dave Gilroy and Huntersville commissioner Danny Phillips, all of whom reiterated their opposition to tolls.

Griffith also serves on a subcommittee of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, which recommends Charlotte-area road priorities to the state.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Government Center in uptown, MUMPO is scheduled to vote on an amendment adding I-77 toll lanes to its list of priorities. Griffith said she will recommend to the subcommittee at its 4 p.m. meeting Wednesday that it oppose the project.

No matter how MUMPO votes, Brawley said, the General Assembly will have final say on the project, and he’s been emailing his colleagues to alert them to the state’s plans. He said only three colleagues have told him they’d support the tolls.

Since 2011, the state has sought to convert I-77’s high-occupancy lanes to toll lanes as a means of funding the interstate’s expansion.

State transportation officials have said North Carolina doesn’t have the money to widen the interstate. Without a private partner, widening I-77 wouldn’t begin for 20 or 25 years, they’ve said.

But Brawley said the state could use the $170 million it plans to put toward the toll project for new general-purpose lanes that could be built for $100 million or less.

Marusak: 704-987-3670
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