In the latest efforts to stop the Interstate 77 toll lane project, two Mecklenburg County lawmakers introduced separate bills Monday to cancel the construction contract.
Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Matthews Democrat, introduced House Bill 950. And Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican, filed HB 954. Each would cancel the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of the Spanish firm Cintra.
The $660 million project broke ground late last year. It would add center toll lanes to the interstate that serves the fast-growing Lake Norman area. Critics say the 50-year contract for Cintra to collect the toll revenue virtually precludes the state from adding any extra lanes for the length of the contract.
Getting out of the contract would enact a penalty that’s been estimated to cost up to $300 million.
Both measures say nothing in the bill “shall be construed as relieving the state from paying damages or other monetary penalties” from canceling the contract.
Despite opposition from area residents and business groups, earlier efforts to stop the project ran into dead ends. In January, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization voted to endorse the project over the objections of several local governments.
It’s not clear how any bill to stop the project would fair during the short session.
Senate Republican leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County told reporters last week he hadn’t seen a specific proposal. But he didn’t seem inclined to support it.
“The I-77 issue has been around for a while,” he said. “I think we’ve gone pretty far down the road on that. I don’t see the need for any significant changes. ... I have not seen any information that would lead me to believe that stopping the project is the right thing to do.”
Cotham is running for Congress from the 12th District, which now includes north Mecklenburg County. Jeter is running for re-election against a well-funded Democrat after winning the March 15 primary by 35 votes.