NCDOT signs contract for I77 toll lane project

by: Jenna Deery Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The North Carolina Department of Transportation has signed a contract with Cintra to build toll lanes on Interstate 77 from Uptown Charlotte to Mooresville to lock in design plans for the project.
 
Eyewitness News found the company may be facing financial issues with other projects the company has worked on.
           
Eyewitness News requested the contract for toll lanes on I-77 minutes after it was signed, but a state spokesperson told us it can't be released until the company and Attorney General's office reviews it to see if any pieces can be hidden by law. NCDOT has released documents and forms from the project on a public website.
 
A state press release reads:
 
"The P3 enables NCDOT to address a critical need and provide immediate travel time reliability along I-77 from Uptown Charlotte to the Lake Norman area that could otherwise not be completed with limited funds.

The state will invest about $88 million and Cintra will secure the remainder of the $655 million to design, build, operate and maintain the managed lanes project in exchange for toll revenue generated from the lanes. This public-private partnership will complete the project within four years instead of the estimated 20 years it would take to secure enough state funding to move forward."

The Spanish-based company, Cintra has developed six highway projects in the United States.

We've learned the company may be dealing with financial problems in Indiana and Texas. Cintra completed the SH 130 toll road in Texas in 2012. The company is having trouble making payments on money it borrowed for the billion dollar project, according to financial analysis agency, Moody's Corporation.
 
The company may be facing a similar problem in Indiana where Cintra built the Indiana Toll Road.
 
"We don't need to be Texas and Indiana. We don't want to be the back stop for that debt in any way shape or form," said Sen. Jeff Tarte.
 
Tarte, a Republican from Cornelius, is leading a commission reviewing the contract with Cintra to ensure the state is entering into a sound deal.
 
That's after Channel 9 uncovered it would cost drivers $21 to use the I-77 toll road round trip. Officials say those numbers are from old findings and new rates will be set after Cintra holds public meetings in the future.
 
Tarte is calling for full transparency including knowing if the state would be liable for debts Cintra doesn't pay.
 
An NCDOT spokesperson said Cintra went through a rigorous review process with the state treasurer's office and their findings were positive.
 
The contract signed Thursday locked in the design of the project. Another contract is expected to settle the financial obligations for money borrowed or used.

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