Citizens group considers court action to delay I-77 toll lanes

The leader of a grassroots Lake Norman group opposing the state's plans to build Interstate 77 toll lanes from Charlotte to Mooresville says the group is considering seeking an injunction to temporarily halt the process.

Kurt Naas, a Cornelius resident who heads Widen I-77, says group leaders have met with retired judiciary members who’ve advised that aspects of the project “would not stand legal scrutiny.” He declined to say what those aspects are.

More than 100 people gathered at Cornelius Town Hall Thursday night to hear a presentation from the Widen I-77 group. Naas told them the legal action would cost about $20,000 and asked for donations.

Widen I-77 wants the state to scrap the toll lanes and build general purpose lanes to ease the perennial backups that occur in the two-lane section of the highway from mile marker 21 in Huntersville to Exit 36 in Mooresville.

A 2012 state study found that rush-hour toll rates for a single Mooresville-to-Charlotte roundtrip could run $20. After the study became public in June, N.C. DOT officials said they now think rates will be much lower.

Widen I-77 has already raised some money for a legal battle, Naas said. But he declined to say how much.

As Thursday's meeting ended, several donation jars were filling with cash and checks.

Naas says his group would rather work on an alternative plan with the N.C. Department of Transportation than seek an injunction. But time for a new plan is running short. Cintra Infraestructuras, the private company based in Spain that would build the toll lanes, could start construction by December.