November marks the two-year anniversary of when work started on Interstate 77 toll lanes from Lake Norman to Charlotte.
So when exactly will they open?
Just about a year from now, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The state hasn’t pinned down the exact date or month, saying only on its I-77 Express Lanes website that “late 2018” is when the lanes will open to traffic.
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The project must be completed and opened no later than Jan. 7, 2019, according to terms of the state’s contract with I-77 Mobility Partners.
I-77 Mobility Partners is the subsidiary of Spain-based contractor Cintra that is financing, designing and building the project. I-77 Mobility Partners also will operate and maintain the lanes as part of the public-private partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The $647 million project has angered drivers caught in frequent backups during the late-night and early morning construction. The worst backups have meant a two-hour drive from Charlotte to Mooresville – a commute that normally takes about 35 minutes.
Two toll, or “express” lanes are being added in each direction between uptown Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. Between Cornelius and Exit 36 (N.C. 150) in Mooresville, one express lane is being added in each direction.
The existing “high-occupancy vehicle” lanes, one in each direction on the southern part of the project, are being converted to toll lanes.
The existing general purpose lanes along the 26-mile project will always remain free, state officials said. The project is neither adding nor removing any general-purpose lanes, but the lanes will be resurfaced to preserve the pavement and provide drivers with a smoother ride, according to the department.
That would be welcome news given the ruts that drivers often have had to rumble over along stretches of the general purpose lanes because of the toll-lane work.
Motorcyclists, buses and carpoolers with three or more occupants, including the driver, may use the toll lanes for free. Only two occupants, including the driver, were required to use the HOV lanes.