The latest vision to eventually rebuild Interstate 77 in south Charlotte is to add two toll lanes in each direction instead of the single toll lanes previously proposed, according to city and state officials.
The project – expected to cost more than $1 billion – likely wouldn’t begin until 2024, said Norm Steinman of the Charlotte Department of Transportation.
He said the current thinking for the project is that it will be so costly and so disruptive that the state might as well add additional lanes.
The state will have to rebuild every bridge over the interstate to make room for the extra lanes and will have to spend millions of dollars buying right-of-way for the project. It will remake the landscape, likely causing the removal of thousands of trees.
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“(Adding only one lane) might make it obsolete in 15 or 20 years,” he said. “It will be a massive reconstruction.”
I-77 from uptown to Interstate 485 today has three lanes in each direction. The N.C. Department of Transportation is looking for so-called HOT lanes to increase capacity on existing interstates as a way to move projects forward.
HOT lanes used variable pricing to guarantee drivers a certain speed. The more people who want to use the special lane, the higher the toll.
The DOT will add a HOT lane to I-77 in north Mecklenburg and has long-term plans to add a HOT lane to I-485 in south Charlotte, from I-77 to U.S. 74.
Steinman and Louis Mitchell of the N.C. Department of Transportation gave a presentation to the Charlotte City Council on Monday night about how local highway projects are faring under the state’s new funding formula for transportation projects.
The formula takes into accounts factors such as congestion and economic development when ranking highway projects. Some area projects, such as widening I-85 in Gaston County, has scored well. The Garden Parkway, a proposed toll road for Gaston, had a low score, making it less likely to be built.
Steinman said he’s confident that I-77 would be funded if the formula stays the same.