Lake Norman residents worry about cost of toll lane - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Lake Norman residents worry about cost of toll lane

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LAKE NORMAN, NC (WBTV) -

The rush hour traffic on I-77 in the Lake Norman area is notorious, and Kurt Naas, spokesman for a group called Widen I-77, is worried that the drivers forced to deal with it are about to be taken for a ride. He says a toll lane planned to alleviate the congestion could cost much more than expected.

Take Mooresville residents commuting to Charlotte – Naas says they could be charged more than $20 roundtrip.

He got the high toll figures from NCDOT documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

"It took a number of phone calls, a number of emails, I contacted the Attorney General's office, I talked to a couple of people in that office and they said look if you're not getting it you need to file a lawsuit," Naas says. "Finally I did go to the media, they were able to get that information and that's when I published it."

NCDOT representative Jen Thompson does not dispute the information Naas found, but she does call it outdated. She says the $20 figure is not in play anymore. "No, that is not accurate," she says "That is an outdated number. NCDOT and Cintra, the prime contractor, disagree that it's an accurate number. That will not be what people will be paying."

Naas is suspicious of the change.

"I'd like to know what's changed in the last 18 months that's caused a drop in the price and if they have new numbers why don't they tell us what the new numbers are," he says.

We asked Thompson just that: Peak traffic time, then, from Mooresville to Charlotte – if not $20, how much?

"That's something that we can't throw out a number and guesstimate," she answered.

Thompson says we can't have exact numbers because the private Spain-based company bankrolling much of the project is not required to release its toll rates to the public until after a contract with the state is signed.  "That's correct," she said, "and that is a statute that applies to a lot of other NCDOT contracts. Bids are not required to be released until an actual agreement is signed so it's nothing unique to this particular project."

"You know," counters Naas,  "the public has a right to know how much a company is going to charge them before the government signs a contract. That just makes common sense. You don't take out a mortgage loan without knowing what your monthly payment is going to be."

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