Charlotte’s transportation planning organization voted 12-2 Tuesday night against creating carpool lanes on Interstate 485 in south Charlotte, saying the lanes’ costs wouldn’t be worth the benefits.
The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization decided to wait for the N.C. Department of Transportation to create express toll lanes on the outerbelt by 2020. The toll lanes, when finished, will run from Interstate 77 to U.S. 74.
The representatives from Mint Hill and Matthews voted in favor of creating temporary carpool lanes.
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The N.C. Department of Transportation finished widening I-485 in December. In addition to adding a new lane each way to the highway, the state also created extra-wide shoulders that it plans to convert into the express toll lanes in about five years.
The shoulders could have been converted into carpool lanes in the short-term to help relieve congestion.
The DOT said creating carpool lanes could have cost as much as $2 million. The state also said it would have had to redo environmental studies for the carpool lanes, and that they would have only been open for about nine to 12 months before they would have to be closed again to build the toll lanes.
“The cost benefit just doesn’t seem to be there,” said Mineral Springs Mayor Frederick Becker.
Rob Watson, who organized a Facebook page called Open Our Lane, said he felt the state was making excuses as to why the carpool lanes shouldn’t be opened. He said the cost estimate for building the carpool lanes was high, and he said they would likely be able to be used for a longer period of time.
The state also said it was concerned about people merging across several lanes of traffic to reach the carpool lanes at I-77.
But that problem will still exist in 2020 when the new toll lanes open, Watson said.