When will I-77 toll lanes open?

When will I-77 toll lanes open?

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - November marks the two-year anniversary of when work started on Interstate 77 toll lanes from Lake Norman to Charlotte.

So when exactly will they open?

Just about a year from now, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The state hasn't pinned down the exact date or month, saying only on its I-77 Express Lanes website that "late 2018" is when the lanes will open to traffic.

The $647 million project has angered drivers caught in frequent backups during the late-night and early morning construction. The worst backups have meant a two-hour drive from Charlotte to Mooresville – a commute that normally takes about 35 minutes.

Two toll, or "express" lanes are being added in each direction between uptown Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. Between Cornelius and Exit 36 (N.C. 150) in Mooresville, one express lane is being added in each direction.

The existing "high-occupancy vehicle" lanes, one in each direction on the southern part of the project, are being converted to toll lanes.

The existing general purpose lanes along the 26-mile project will always remain free, state officials said. The project is neither adding nor removing any general-purpose lanes, but the lanes will be resurfaced to preserve the pavement and provide drivers with a smoother ride, according to the department.

That would be welcome news given the ruts that drivers often have had to rumble over along stretches of the general purpose lanes because of the toll-lane work.

For more project details, visit the state DOT's I-77 Express Lanes page at www.ncdot.gov/projects/I-77ExpressLanes/ or the I-77 Mobility Partners website at www.i77express.com/ .

I-77 Mobility Partners is the subsidiary of Spain-based contractor Cintra, which that is financing, designing and building the project. I-77 Mobility Partners also will operate and maintain the lanes as part of the public-private partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation.