Officials: Fourth I-485 lane will not open until 2017

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Interstate 485 is notorious traffic nightmare in south Charlotte.
 
Once the widening project is done it will be big enough for four lanes, but drivers will not be able to use one of the new lanes.
 
The state Department of Transportation plans to use that fourth lane for a future toll road.
 
However, anchor Scott Wickersham found out Charlotte’s air quality and paperwork are preventing drivers from using that extra lane now.
 
“If you’re trying to go all the way down 485 you’re going to be waiting a while,” one motorist said.
 
The DOT made plans to expand I-485 to three lanes. Later they convinced the federal government to let them widen it to four lanes to save money on a toll road on the same stretch in the future.
 
Officials said the fourth lane was not considered in their traffic analysis.
 
“The environmental planning document for this project was not analyzed to include another lane, and at the time the Charlotte area was in a non-attainment air quality status,” said Scott Cole with NC DOT.
 
Getting this done now would have caused delay in the project.
 
One official explained since Charlotte is below federal standards for air quality, there are more processes to go through to get traffic projects approved.
 
“The air quality is improving over the past decade or so,” Cole said.
 
Air quality specialist Shelley Lanham said Charlotte should meet clean air standards by the end of 2015, despite the city gaining more residents and cars each year.
 
“Mostly it’s from federal standards for vehicles, they have to be cleaner now. The new engines have to be a lot cleaner than the older,” Lanham said.
 
That will not change for I-485, which is not slated to use the fourth lane until it becomes part of a new toll lane in 2017.