Local woman says she was detoured on I-77, forced to take express lanes

Local woman says she was detoured on I-77, forced to take express lanes

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - More controversy on the interstate after another driver says she was forced to take the express lanes and was billed.

Kim Watson never takes the express lanes.

The one time she did, she says, she was forced to, and that’s simply unfair.

“I think they’re taking advantage of people, and I realize I am not the only person that this has happened to,” said Watson.

On June 7, a little after 11 pm, Watson was trying to get to Novant Hospital in Huntersville to pick up a friend.

“I was driving from my home in Mooresville to exit 23, southbound on I-77, and when I got to the exit, it was blocked off,” Watson said.

She says there were no general-purpose lanes open and she was forced into the express lanes.

“There wasn’t much traffic on the road, so certainly there wasn’t enough traffic for me to try and get into a toll lane to avoid traffic because there was no traffic,” Watson said.”

NC Quick Pass sent her a bill in July for 62 cents, which she paid.

“I mean it’s not a lot of money, obviously, but it’s the principle that they’re charging people to use a toll lane when people really don’t want to use the toll lane in the first place,” Watson said.

She immediately disputed it and in August, got a reply.

“It says we are unable to continue the dispute process, there were no lane closures during your time, location of travel,” Watson said.

When WBTV Investigates contacted the NC Turnpike Authority, they said something similar, indicating Watson’s toll dispute ticket was denied since, ” . . . all general-purpose lanes were not closed to traffic and Ms. Watson had a choice to stay in the open general-purpose lane or take the express lanes.”

Then WBTV Investigates reached out to Senator Vickie Sawyer about the situation on I-77.

“When that is shut down, we should not be charged to go onto the toll lanes and there should be more care taken with that,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer’s office reached out to the NCDOT looking for information on how many people were billed and how many people are being diverted to the toll lanes.

“Like you, we are told these motorists had different options to go another way and we’re hearing from folks that are just not true,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer encourages people to contact her office if they have concerns like Watson.

“If you want to use the toll lane that’s great, but if you don’t want to use it, and you have no choice, I don’t feel like we should have to pay a toll,” said Watson.

Good news for Watson and anyone else forced into the toll lanes that night.

After WBTV’s first round of questions, I-77 Mobility Partners changed the statement and acknowledged there was construction that night.

They said NC Quick Pass would be refunding any drivers who were charged during that time:

“The general contractor implemented an additional lane closure on Sunday, June 7, to complete work between mile marker 24 and mile marker 22.5. As a result, traffic was diverted into the express lanes from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 7 for one segment,” they said.

Therefore, drivers who were charged on June 7 for the use of this segment between 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. will receive a refund from NC Quick Pass.”

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