CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Interstate 485 from I- 77 to Johnston Road in south Charlotte often leaves drivers frustrated and in a serious traffic jam.
The planned widening project to fix that area includes a proposed toll road that some worry could lead to an even bigger headache.
Shannon Wilkie says her 10 minute drive to work actually takes 45 minutes. In a slightly sarcastic tone she says it gives her a lot of time to get things done while on the road.
“It’s nice because I get to do my makeup in the car, get to check my Facebook, hang out, listen to music,” Wilkie said.
Like everyone else who lives in the Ballantyne area and beyond, Wilkie is used to going nowhere fast.
“Oh, it’s frustrating. There’s really no alternative routes. You’re stuck on the highway, you’re basically just stuck,” said another commuter.
The plan to expand 485 on the south side in each direction is finally taking shape and includes making one of the new lanes a toll road.
“We are selling that capacity to people that want to have a guaranteed travel time through the area,” said project engineer Barry Moose.
A similar plan in Atlanta is failing. Drivers there say the commute is actually longer because no one wants to pay to use the toll lane. That's why engineers in Charlotte say they're taking note and promising not to make the same mistake.
Drivers say they're up for anything that speeds up the commute.
“If it’s a matter of convenience and it takes a toll to pay, I’d be willing to pay for that,” said one driver.
Construction is set to begin in 2013 and should wrap up by 2015. Engineers are also hoping to expand 485 from two to three lanes from Johnston out to Rea road.