Huntersville Town Commissioners on Monday unanimously passed a resolution asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to explain changes to a contract regarding toll lanes on Interstate 77.
“All it simply says to the state is we want answers,” said commissioner Jeff Neely, one of the authors of the resolution. “We’re part of the state and you can’t ignore us and, in the future, we’re going to be vocal.”
The move came a week after Cornelius commissioners passed a resolution asking the state to delay finalizing the contract for 90 days. Cornelius commissioners said they were unaware that the agreement specifically excludes a planned widening of I-77 at Lake Norman.
The meeting was attended by about 50 people, including a large contingent from a Widen I77, a group opposed to toll lanes.
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Mark Gibbons, one of the group’s board members, said he was happy with the commission’s decision, but wished they had stronger words for the N.C. DOT.
“I think it was important for the whole board to vote unanimously,” he said. “Collectively, it shows that we genuinely want to be part of the process. That’s what they showed today – that Huntersville wants answers.”
Transportation planners and officials in Huntersville, Mooresville and Charlotte have said they didn’t know about the details of a noncompete clause in the contract.
The noncompete clause means that the DOT can’t add new free lanes to I-77 unless it compensates I-77 Mobility Partners, the developer.
The state can build new express toll lanes on I-77, but I-77 Mobility Partners would have the exclusive right to manage them. The contract, which lasts 50 years, doesn’t say whether the developer would be required to contribute any money to a second round of toll-lane construction.
When the toll project is finished in 2018, the developer will convert the existing carpool lane on I-77 into a toll lane. I-77 Mobility Partners will also add a new toll lane from uptown to Mooresville.
When the project is finished, much of I-77 in north Mecklenburg and south Iredell counties will have two free lanes and one toll lane in each direction.
Some have questioned whether that will be enough capacity to handle population growth in the area over the next five decades.