by: Holly Maynard Updated:MOORESVILLE, N.C. —
There is a new push to relieve congestion on Interstate 77 in the Lake Norman area.
Transportation leaders have talked for years about adding two High Occupancy Toll lanes in each direction on I-77, but they have focused mainly on doing so between Interstate 85 and exit 28 in Cornelius.
However, transportation leaders voted recently to amend their long-range plan and look at extending the plan up through Mooresville. The revised plan would add one lane in each direction from exit 28 to exit 36.
High Occupancy Toll lanes are for vehicles with two or more people or anyone traveling alone who is willing to pay a toll.
For many commuters, driving on I-77 near the lake during rush hour can be a nightmare.
"It will be bumper to bumper, 20 miles on average,” said Wally Lowery.
It takes him at least 35 minutes to travel 16 miles to work every day. He does not like the idea of having to pay a toll, but said the plan may work.
"One lane would have to help, would have to be a plus," he said.
The lanes would be built in the middle of the causeway over Lake Norman, but building across the lake brings up a lot of questions.
"How would it affect the population? How would it affect livelihoods? How it would affect the ecosystem there?" asked Jen Thompson from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
A study will now be done to find those answers, but it's not clear yet when that will happen or who would pay for it.
Not all drivers are convinced that such a complicated and expensive project will become a reality.
"I almost think we're stuck with what we've got and might just have to live with it," said Paul Ballard.
It would be quite some time before the HOT lanes in the Lake Norman area become a reality. NCDOT said the earliest work would begin is late 2013.
Transportation leaders are also looking at adding the HOT lanes on I-77 from I-277 to I-85.