State DOT talks toll lanes in Cornelius

CORNELIUS, NC (WBTV) - The idea of paying to use Interstate 77 seems foreign to a lot of southerners, but in Cornelius today, the state Department of Transportation was talking tolls.

"I don't like them. They can keep them up North," says Cornelius resident Jeff Simons.  When he heard the news, he felt fed up. "It's just another way for the government to say here's another way we can raise some revenue so let's go ahead and put a toll road in."

Many say they're simply sick of hearing that the government needs more of their money.

Even former northerners, like Deborah Catholdi, who was used to paying tolls all the time. "I think it's a little different," she says. "Because they really do need to maintain roads, because of the weather conditions, and so some of the tolls are justified, but I don't think they need them here."

But Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte says there's one reason we need them very much – to alleviate traffic. He's saying we can add a toll lane, "Or we probably wait twenty to thirty years before we ever widen. And having the only two alternatives, it's sort of the lesser of two evils."

Lesser, he says, because you won't have to pay a toll. The idea is to take underutilized HOV lanes running along 77 from Charlotte to Lake Norman, and let single-passenger vehicles use them…for a fee.

"The tolling is for those that need to get somewhere fast," Tarte says.  "Like a baseball game or a meeting downtown, or a flight at the airport…"

Cornelius resident Elizabeth Pritchet likes the sound of that. "If it can improve the roadways and improve the transportation, and cut back on some of the traffic, I'd be willing to pay the tolls," she says.

Her husband, Whit, agrees.  "We lived in South Florida and there are toll lanes down there," he says.  "You take the free lanes, and you sit in traffic or you take the toll lanes and you don't have any delay."

The DOT will hold another question-and-answer session Thursday in Charlotte from 4 – 7pm at Ivory Baker Recreation Center.