‘Unsolicited’ toll lane proposal went before transportation planning board, no plans in place

There has been talk for years about extending toll lanes toward the state border.
Despite years of talk, there are no plans in place to put toll lanes on I-77 near the state border.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - More toll lanes on I-77 could eventually be coming to I-77, but not right away.

For years, there have been tentative plans to extend the toll lanes from where they currently stop at Exit 11 to the South Carolina state line. WBTV spent the day looking into new chatter that the toll lanes could be coming soon and found there are no plans in the works right now.

There have been distant plans to extend the toll lanes all the way to the state line for years. Since the original project is finished, but we have learned there is no active project to extend the lanes – with tolls or with free lanes.

For crossing state lines in a car, it is not a question of if, but how often.

”Oh gosh. Every day at least,” one driver said.

”I would say at least twice a week,” another driver said.

People tend to perk up when you mention tolls.

”I don’t think I really would like that,” a driver said.

While some people wouldn’t mind the extra dollars and cents in exchange for smoother travel, others say they are prepared to take a different route.

”As long as they fix our roads, I mean I’m willing to do that, because I mean, you do go to other states and their roads are so much better,” one driver said. “But as long as that’s where the money’s gonna go then I’m for it.”

”Yeah I don’t think I’d like that. It’s such a well-traveled area especially for people who commute into work every day,” another said.

One person who shares the no-toll-lane opinion is Treasurer Dale Folwell, who feels like toll lanes are discriminatory toward many groups of people.

”We ought to be able to find out how to meet the road needs of our citizens without having some discriminatory policy like a toll lane,” he said.

Tolls on the southern end of I-77 have been talked about for years.

The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRPTO) even considered a proposal to bring the tolls as a public-private partnership in March.

The NCDOT official called this an unsolicited proposal meaning NCDOT was not advertising or recruiting for this project. Because it was unsolicited, North Carolina law allows some of the details to remain confidential. CRPTO does not know who put this plan together.

NCDOT says CRPTO has been discussing tolling the southern end of the I-77 area for years, similar to what is in the northern section. But the board had major concerns over that proposal.

”I don’t think our last experience with a private public partnership went to well for North Carolina taxpayers so I don’t even wanna go down that road,” Matthews Mayor John Higdon said.

Instead the board decided more work needed to be done by NCDOT before committing any time to taking the proposal seriously.

”We’ll put the ball back in NCDOT’s court and see if they can come up with more stuff for us,” Waxhaw Mayor Ron Pappas said.

An NCDOT spokesperson says the agency isn’t evaluating the proposal until it gets clear direction from the CRTPO board. Many of the members were opposed to it.

Details of the proposal would become public if NCDOT decides to pursue this plan. That spokesperson says if toll lanes did come to this area, it would be in a transparent and open bidding process.

Related: Construction begins on ‘Panthers Interchange’ on I-77 in Rock Hill, S.C.

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