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I-77 toll lanes construction to start on Monday

File photo: I-77 northbound traffic slowly advances at a crawl during the 5:00 PM commute in Huntersville.
File photo: I-77 northbound traffic slowly advances at a crawl during the 5:00 PM commute in Huntersville. The Charlotte Observer

Construction of Interstate 77 toll lanes will begin on Monday in the Lake Norman area, I-77 Mobility Partners announced Thursday.

Work will start south of Gilead Road (Exit 23) in Huntersville to just north of Catawba Avenue (Exit 28) in Cornelius.

The first phase of work will be in the interstate’s median “with minimal disruption to commuters,” officials said. Occasional lane shifts and closures will occur only overnight.

News of the start of construction comes even as opposition to the project remains high. On Friday, a group of state lawmakers is set to hold a news conference in Cornelius about the tolls. Also, a lawsuit by the anti-toll lane group Widen I-77 remains alive.

The $648 million project calls for two toll lanes in each direction/ between the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte and the Catawba Avenue exit. One toll lane would continue in each direction to N.C. 150 (Exit 36) in Mooresville.

The toll lanes will be in addition to the free, general purpose lanes on I-77.

The state has contracted with Spain-based Cintra to build, design and operate the toll lanes. I-77 Mobility Partners is a subsidiary of Cintra.

Construction of the toll lanes is expected to last a few years, and be completed in 2018, said I-77 Mobility Partners.

Initial construction on the 5-mile stretch in Huntersville and Cornelius will involve land clearing and grading. But next year, drivers will see construction along most of the 26-mile toll project from Charlotte to Mooresville.

“We believe this project will provide a benefit to I-77 users as an improvement to their daily quality of life,” said Jean Leier, spokeswoman for I-77 Mobility Partners. “With less congestion, drivers will have more time with their families or at the office, be able to make more service calls, and have greater access to goods and services.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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