CORNELIUS, N.C. - Residents listened to discussions for the first time that will determine the future of the I-77 construction project. The I-77 Advisory Committee held its first meeting Wednesday afternoon that was open to the public.
“I was really kind of negative on the whole process, but I’ve become much more positive hearing them speak and their concern,” Bob Sheehe, who lives in Mooresville, said.
The advisory committee includes representatives from towns and groups along I-77 and the group will eventually recommend what to do with the controversial toll lane project.
The toll lanes stretch from uptown Charlotte to Mooresville and have already been under construction for nearly two years.
“We’re finding out some answers to some questions that really nobody wanted to answer, or would tell the answers to,” Iredell County commissioner Jeff McNeely, who is on the advisory committee, said.
The committee is weighing six options. Most of the options call for canceling the toll contract, which could mean finishing construction and keeping the additional lane for all drivers.
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The cost impact varies depending on when a decision is made but could reach into hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Whenever all these decisions are made, it’s always the taxpayers,” McNeely said. “It’s always us. We’re always the ones that foot the bill.”
More than half of the $640 million project has already been spent. As the committee debates which option to choose, construction is not slowing. Drivers can already see electronic message boards for the toll lanes along the interstate.
Some committee members have said that they’re against the toll lanes because they don’t solve congestion issues. They said they would rather see the interstate widened.
Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster asked North Carolina Department of Transportation’s western deputy chief engineer Louis Mitchell if the project was rushed, now that there are other options that may cost taxpayers more money.
“I wouldn’t say it was rushed when you look at our pre-construction activities that spanned several years,” Mitchell said.
The advisory committee is meeting again next week. There is no deadline for the committee’s recommendation but meetings are scheduled to wrap up by end of April.
The final decision of what will happen on I-77 will be up to the NCDOT secretary and the governor.
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