The N.C. Department of Transportation said last year it would try to expedite by six months the construction of express toll lanes on Interstate 485, but it now appears the project will begin on the original time frame, in the summer of 2017.
When finished, the $203 million project will add an express toll lane in each direction of I-485, from Interstate 77 to U.S. 74. DOT also plans to extend an exit-only lane from Rea Road to Providence Road.
The existing lanes on the highway will remain free.
It could open in 2020, a little after the state’s first toll lane project opens on I-77 in northern Mecklenburg. Instead of paying with money, motorists will use transponders mounted in their dashboard.
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Jordan Ashley-Baker, a DOT spokeswoman, said the environmental impact statement for the toll lanes is finished.
“We are currently working toward advertising the project for bid but don’t have a fixed date at this time,” she said.
The toll lanes under construction for I-77 will be managed by a private company, I-77 Mobility Partners, which is a subsidiary of Cintra, a Spanish firm.
The toll lanes on I-485, as well as another project on U.S. 74, will be built and managed byDOT.
In March 2015, local transportation officials were debating whether to use an unused wide shoulder on I-485 as a carpool lane until the toll lanes were finished. DOT built the wide shoulder during a recent widening, with plans to convert them to toll lanes in the future.
At the time, DOT said it wouldn’t make financial sense to do so, in part because the carpool lanes might only be used for nine months until they would have to be closed for construction. The state also said it would try to advance the project by six months, with work able to start in the summer of 2016.
The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, or CRTPO, ultimately voted against using the shoulders as temporary carpool lanes.
Now it appears the extra lane could have been in use for at least two years, and maybe longer.
The DOT is planning to start construction on toll lanes in the median of U.S. 74 from uptown to Wallace Lane, starting next year.