CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The I-77 Express Lanes may still be a touchy subject, but new numbers released by I-77 Mobility Partners shows us just how many are using them.

More than 1.3 million trips were taken by over 315,000 vehicles between November 16 and December 31, 2019, according to I-77 Mobility Partners.

The group says 25,000 used the Express Lanes every day of the week. About 52% of of drivers in the Express Users used a transponder.

As for drive times, the release says the average speed during the morning rush hour drive increased by 12 percent. The afternoon rush hour saw speeds improve by 16 percent. Both numbers are compared to average speeds during the same time period for the last three years prior to opening. (I-77 Mobility Partners defines peak travel periods as being between 6:30 AM to 9:00 AM, and from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM).

I-77 Mobility Partners say that means drivers gained back on average an extra eight minutes, or 23 percent, of their mornings. Drivers gained 11 more minutes, or 31 percent, of their evenings when driving the whole corridor.

The first portion of the I-77 Express Lanes opened June 1 with all 26 miles opening in October.

The express lanes run adjacent to the existing general lanes on Interstate 77. The number of general-purpose lanes hasn't changed.

Drivers pay a fee in order to use the lanes. The cost of the trip is dependent on traffic: The more congestion in the free lanes, the higher the cost to use the toll lanes.

Anyone planning to use the tolls will want to get an NC Quick Pass. Otherwise, a camera will capture vehicles' license plates, and bills will be sent in the mail.

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