NC House Bill Could Stop I-77 Toll Lanes

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by Will Kennedy
Bio | Email | Follow: @willkennedynews by Photojournalist Darnell Hart

CHARLOTTE, NC -- A plan to add toll lanes to I-77 between uptown Charlotte and Mooresville is just the beginning of a statewide shift toward "pay to drive" roadways.

That's the word from toll-road road opponents, and the motivation behind a bill in Raleigh that would give voters the chance to decide.

"It should have happened before now, because essentially they have two weeks left to go," says Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis.

That is Travis' reaction to Mooresville Representative Robert Brawley's legislation that would call for a statewide referendum on the November ballot about toll lanes and roads.

"The way DOT and the leadership in Raleigh is looking at this, I-77 is just the beginning," says Rep. Brawley. "And their plan is to toll every interstate in North Carolina." 

Supporters say toll lanes will help manage traffic problems for years to come. Groups like Widen I-77 are against it. They're calling for the state to add more general purpose lanes, instead of finalizing a $655 million contract with a Spanish company.

"You could increase the flow of traffic by 50 percent for 68 million dollars," says Rep. Brawley. "That addresses the congestion problem."

"Let's widen the interstate, add two more lanes both directions. That sounds great, but for how long?" says Mayor Travis.

If the legislation fails, and the toll project moves forward, a $20 round trip is possible. Residents feel that is just too much.

"It's going to be expensive for all of us to go visit our grandchildren if it's going to be about $20 each time we do it," says Cornelius resident Diana Rochester.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions," says Mayor Travis. "There's also a lot of misinformation that's being circulated. And unfortunately when you say $20 toll, it just fuels the fire."

If House Bill 1274 passes, it would force North Carolina DOT to suspend planning for high- occupancy toll lanes on I-77 until the referendum vote in November.

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