CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The idea of a toll lane addition to I-77 that will connect south Charlotte with South Carolina is unpopular among many people.
Some within the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization are hesitant to decide on a developer or way to finance the project.
The idea of improving I-77 South has been discussed for over a decade, with traffic congestion being the most significant problem.
Research suggests that the roads could be almost impassible by 2050 at this rate.
That’s why, in February 2022, the North Carolina Department of Transportation received an unsolicited proposal from the private developer firm Cintra.
The plan was to build more toll lanes along I-77 between I-277 (Brookshire Freeway) and the South Carolina state line.
Cintra is also the group that developed toll lanes in northern Mecklenburg County.
At Wednesday’s meeting, CRTPO members walked through answers they had received from NCDOT representatives about the project.
While representatives were expected to answer these in person, these were provided in document form.
At the meeting, Chairman Ron Pappas explained that “there are a lot of other suiters. So it’s not just that this is the only suiter.”
Questions that still sit with a lot of members revolve around the financing of the project.
A partnership with Cintra or another private developer is considered a P3 or a Public Private Partnership.
While these projects can move along faster than partnerships with the state, they can also cost more.
John Higdon, a member of CRTPO, suggested that the organization put pressure on Raleigh lawmakers and NCDOT representatives to do the development project.
“I think the legislature is going to have to open their pocketbooks and recognize some of these things,” he said. “We can’t wait 50 years for projects to get done. It would be must less expensive on our taxpayers if the Turnpike authority does this project and not a P3.”
Turnpike Authority can fund some projects with money from toll roads. The organization could also wait for the State Transportation Improvement Program to develop, but Chairman Pappas explained that those projects can easily get pushed back decade after decade.
“Do we want to wait for the STIP and deliver it in 2045 and 2050 and make our people sit on the freeway for another 40 years?” he questioned.
Wednesday’s meeting ended with organization members agreeing that more needs to be discussed and other options should be explored before they continue another P3 project with Cintra.
“This is not over. We collectively should not let this move forward until we understand what we’re looking at and how and engage with NCDOT,” Pappas said.
To see the entire meeting and agenda, click here.