Questions on the I-485 toll lanes? DOT officials to hold open house.

State transportation officials will hold an open house meeting next Thursday on the design of toll lanes to be added to Interstate 485 between I-77 and Independence Boulevard.

One toll lane in each direction will be built in the median of the heavily-congested freeway. One non-toll lane will be added in each direction on part of the segment, between Rea and Providence roads.

Construction of the $290 million project may start in August. The toll lanes are expected to open in late 2022.

Three other road projects will be built at the same time, including the widening of the Ballantyne Commons Parkway bridge, a new freeway interchange at Weddington Road and improvements to the John Street interchange.

Transportation officials will be available from noon to 7 p.m. next Thursday at Endhaven Elementary School, 6815 Endhaven Lane., to display designs and answer questions about the I-485 lanes.

They will be part of a growing network of toll lanes in the Charlotte region. The Monroe Expressway opened last November between Stallings and Marshville in Union County. I-77 toll lanes between Huntersville and Mooresville opened in June, with the final segment from Huntersville to Charlotte opening by September.

The I-77 toll lanes have been hugely controversial in northern Mecklenburg County. Critics have taken aim at the state’s contract with builder Cintra, which allows no non-toll lanes to be added for 50 years without stiff penalties. Drivers complained about snarled traffic during its 3 1/2 years of construction.

“The opening of the northern portion of I-77 Express is going smoothly and we’re pleased that drivers are taking advantage of this transportation choice to improve their travel times,” said Jean Leier of I-77 Mobility Partners, a Cintra subsidiary. “While we do not have (usage) numbers to share at this time, we’ve received some direct feedback from drivers who have shared positive experiences using the express lanes.”

Planning is also underway to add one toll lane in each direction on Independence Boulevard between I-277 and Idlewild Road. Construction of a project to widen Independence to six non-toll lanes between Idlewild and I-485, with one toll lane in each direction in the median, is expected to begin in late 2023.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.