CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Opponents to the I-77 toll lane project are applauding an amendment that is working its way through the legislature.
The amendment could make it easier to alter or modify the project but it won’t stop it altogether, according to Rep. John Bradford (R. - N.C.) who is behind the amendment.
“I don’t see that being a likely outcome. I think what’s going to happen is based on the Advisory Group’s recommendation that there is going to be a modification,” Bradford said.
Bradford is talking about the I-77 Toll Lane Advisory Group that recommended making one of the two new toll lanes in each direction, a free lane.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham was a member of that panel that wanted to find a compromise.
“We didn’t want any managed lanes, but we were trying to give them something to show we’ll meet you halfway. Just meet us halfway,” Cotham said.
But there is a catch: any change in the contract would likely trigger fees or fines, perhaps in the millions of dollars that would have to be paid by the state to the contractor.
The amendment being pushed by Bradford would set aside Highway Trust Fund surpluses to pay those fines.
The money would be paid back from the revenues from the two remaining toll lanes.
Even Bradford admits it is impossible to predict how this might play out or even if the courts would have to get involved.
“We don’t know how this is going to go, and we don’t know what the negotiations of a contract change or modification would look like. The big mystery here is when it will happen and how much will it cost?” Bradford said.
Pat Cotham says, even with that, it’s a better alternative to what is already playing out as the massive toll project approaches completion later this year.
“It's going to affect the economy of our state as well as affect the lives of people in North Mecklenburg. Their quality of life is definitely diminished,” she said.