A citizens group opposed to planned Interstate 77 toll lanes from Charlotte to Mooresville said Friday that it will continue its legal fight despite a judge’s denial of the group’s bid for a temporary halt to the $655 million project.
Judge W. Osmond Smith III ruled Thursday against Widen I-77’s request for a preliminary injunction against the lanes.
Smith was appointed to the case and heard arguments Tuesday at the Alamance County Historic Courthouse in Graham.
It’s unclear why Smith denied the motion. He told the Observer on Friday that he doesn’t comment on active cases.
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Widen I-77 filed its complaint in January against the N.C. Department of Transportation and I-77 Mobility Partners LLC, a subsidiary of the project’s contractor, Spain-based Cintra US.
“We knew the odds were against us at this preliminary hearing because we were asking that the project be put on hold pending the actual trial,” Widen I-77 said in a statement Friday.
“However, we are very optimistic that the court will find that the North Carolina Constitution does not permit our Department of Transportation to lease our roads to a Spanish corporation to make a profit from our commuters. We look forward to the actual trial to determine the constitutionality of this project.”
The DOT and I-77 Mobility Partners have said they won’t comment on legal matters.
In a statement Friday, I-77 Mobility Partners said it continues to work with the N.C. DOT to complete all requirements toward the financial close of the project.
“The process is moving forward with all parties, and we are confident that we will complete the process soon,” the statement said.
The project will relieve congestion, continue “economic viability to an important corridor” and create thousands of direct and indirect jobs during construction, the statement said.
The project will add two toll lanes northbound and southbound on I-77 from the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte to Exit 28 in Cornelius. It will add one toll lane in each direction from Exit 28 to Exit 36.
Cintra will pay most of the costs and, for 50 years, will maintain and operate the lanes while collecting most of the toll revenue. Toll amounts have yet to be determined.
The plan is for construction to start this summer and finish by late 2018.