Funding For I-77 Toll Lanes Could Come Soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None — Talk of toll lanes along Interstate 77 has been going on for years, and they may soon become a reality.

The carpool lanes may become toll lanes that would stretch about nine miles, to exit 28.

Transportation leaders may finally get the support and funding that they need for the project, which would cost $57 million. They may be able to pull the money from four pots: $5 million from local air quality funds, $10 million from state air quality funds, $22 million from drivers paying the tolls and $20 million in general funding from the state.

Leaders could know the fate of the project as soon as March.

If instituted, the price of the tolls would change constantly. When the lane wasn't crowded, the price would go down to encourage drivers to use it. When the lane was jammed, though, the price would go up.

"You get into that lane at one price and the person that wants to get in that lane 15 minutes later pays a different price to try to keep it managed," Huntersville planner Bill Coxe said.

If funding falls into place, construction could start in 2013 and tolls could be along the highway in 2015.

Denise Connelly said she drives I-77 often and was thrilled to hear that the carpool lanes might become toll lanes.

"I'd pay a toll," she said. "I definitely would pay a toll."

Environmental activists support carpool and toll lanes because they keep vehicles moving and cut pollution.

"As that traffic backs up every day at rush hour, that idling, that emission does create and contribute to our ozone problems," activist Bill Gupton said.