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Charlotte transportation leaders discuss proposed I-77 tolls

Cintra, the company behind the first I-77 toll lane project, proposed a 50-year contract to add two express lanes from I-277 near Uptown to the South Carolina line.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte transportation leaders discussed proposed tolls on Interstate 77 that would run from south of Uptown to the South Carolina state line during a meeting Wednesday evening.

Board members with the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) met at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 6 p.m. to lay out the background of the plan and discuss concerns over the proposed project. The CRTPO is set to vote on whether to move forward with the plan on Feb. 15. 

Some of the concerns brought up by board members included the total cost of the project and where the funding would come from.

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Cintra, the company behind the existing tolls on I-77 from just north of Uptown to Mooresville, sent an unsolicited proposal to the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Charlotte transportation officials last year. According to NCDOT, all toll projects in North Carolina must be requested and approved by the local planning organization, per state law. 

If approved, Cintra would add two express lanes in each direction from I-277 to I-485. Cintra's proposal would add an additional general-purpose lane between West Morehead Street and I-277. This would widen I-77 to 12 total lanes. Cintra is asking for a 50-year contract to collect tolls on the 9.4-mile stretch. 

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham said last year she is prepared to fight back against Cintra following the public's negative reaction to the first toll lane project. 

"The people are still not happy," Cotham said. "there was a lot of lost trust in north Mecklenburg."

According to I-77 Mobility Partners, which operates the express lanes, on average 300,000 drivers use them, every month.  As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic and more workers return to the office, that number is expected to grow. They also say close to 3 million distinct vehicles have used the express lanes since they opened in November 2019.

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