The N.C. Department of Transportation says the cost to cancel and build the Interstate 77 toll lanes project on its own would be $800 million.
Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson sent a letter last week to the chairmen of the N.C. Senate’s Transportation Committee, which is considering legislation passed by the House that would terminate the state’s public-private partnership with I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Cintra, a Spanish infrastructure firm.
To cancel the contract, Tennyson cited an estimate from the N.C. state auditor, who said the DOT would have to pay Cintra $302 million, along with “demobilization costs” of $4.7 million. Critics have challenged that estimate, saying they believe the penalty for canceling would be far lower, around $30 million.
Tennyson then said that if the DOT built the project without help from the private sector, it would cost about $500 million.
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That estimate isn’t in dispute, though critics of the project have said the state wouldn’t need to build the entire toll lane project, from uptown to Mooresville. They have instead lobbied for a smaller project, which would add one or two free lanes in each direction from Huntersville to Davidson.
The state hasn’t said how much that hypothetical project would cost. But toll lane critics have said the smaller free lane project could cost as little as $100 million.
Tennyson’s letter said the legislation, House Bill 954, would also prohibit future public-private partnerships in Mecklenburg County. That would mean the state wouldn’t be able to partner with a private developer to rebuild I-77 south of uptown, a project that’s expected to cost at least $1 billion.
The House passed HB 954 in early June. It’s now in the state Senate’s Transportation Committee.