Politics & Government

I-485, Independence Boulevard express toll lanes delayed again

The N.C. Department of Transportation is delaying – again – planned express toll lanes on Interstate 485 in south Charlotte and in the median of U.S. 74 near uptown.
The N.C. Department of Transportation is delaying – again – planned express toll lanes on Interstate 485 in south Charlotte and in the median of U.S. 74 near uptown. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is delaying – again – planned express toll lanes on Interstate 485 in south Charlotte and in the median of U.S. 74 near uptown.

The state has said it wants to wait for a consultant’s study of the I-77 toll lane contract, which is expected to be finished by July. Philadelphia-based Mercator Advisors is studying ways the contract could be changed, including how much money it would cost to buy the entire project from the private developer, I-77 Mobility Partners.

The study could also give the state insight into the best way to build the next phase of toll lanes.

The toll lanes planned for I-485 and U.S. 74 are different in that the DOT – not a private company – will build, own and manage the lanes.

Two years ago, the DOT said it was working to award a contract for the I-485 toll lanes by the end of 2016 or early 2017. The state didn’t do that, and pushed the date back to the summer of 2017.

Now it said it’s planning to award the contract for the $203 million project by December. The project will likely take at least two years to finish.

The 17-mile project will add an express toll lane in each direction from I-77 to U.S. 74. The DOT has also said it will build an extra general purpose lane in each direction from Rea Road to Providence Road.

The DOT has already built the planned toll lane from I-77 to Johnston Road, when the entire highway was widened in December 2014. But the lane hasn’t been used.

The DOT hasn’t given the public much detail about the new lanes.

485expresslanes
The DOT had planned to an award a contract to build express toll lanes on I-485 this summer. That’s been pushed back to December. N.C. Department of Transportation

A series of public meetings about the project that were supposed to be held in January and February were canceled. The DOT said it still hasn’t completed an estimate of how much traffic the new lanes will carry or how much the tolls might be.

The other toll lane project would convert the bus lanes in the median of Independence Boulevard from uptown to Wallace Lane into express lanes. That’s a nearly six-mile segment.

Eventually, the DOT wants to have an express lane on U.S. 74 from uptown to I-485.

A contract for that nearly $14 million project will be awarded in December, the state said. That has also been pushed back from early 2017.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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