Leaders say toll roads on Charlotte highways should ease congestion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Toll lanes can impact two of Charlotte’s busiest highways.

Leaders said the goal is to ease congestion and use the money to pay for the project and maintain the roads.

Local leaders got their first look Wednesday night at how the tolls would work on I-485 in south Charlotte and Independence Boulevard.

In only about 18 months, drivers could be using an express lane on Independence Boulevard.

What it would cost to drive on it depends on how many other drivers are on it at the time.

Supporters call it a long-term solution to congestion, but opponents say it won't make a difference.

Wednesday night in uptown, transportation leaders laid out the plan to add express lanes to two major Charlotte roads.

First, the stretch on I-485 would have seven segments with an express lane, starting at I-77.  The sections run to South Boulevard, then to Pineville-Matthews Road, Johnston Road, Rea Road, Providence Road, Weddington Road, John Street and then end at Highway 74.

The second project is Highway 74,  from uptown Charlotte at the Brookshire Freeway with segments to Briar Creek,  Eastway Drive, Sharon Amity Road,  Wallace Lane,  Pineville-Matthews Road and ending at I-485.

The state turnpike authority, which has designed and will manage the project, said it's a long-term congestion management tool that features dynamic pricing that changes depending on traffic volume, and it will incentivize carpooling and offer a ride-share program drivers will register for.

Money from the toll lanes would go to the state, for the project itself, and maintaining the roads.

Regardless of where the money goes, one outspoken critic, state Sen. Jeff Tarte doesn’t believe it will work.

"The managed lanes is such a brain-dead project,” Tarte said. “How we structured it and we're going to pay for it for years."

Tarte said an express lane benefits those who pay to drive on it, but not everyone else in the other lanes.

Drivers weren't sure if the idea would ease traffic or not.

"Maybe it's growing too fast here and they can't keep up with it, but I really think something needs to be done,” driver Linda Cladias said.

Depending on the plan for each road, the project would run at a shortfall for 10 to 25 years until there is money to pay for the operating costs.

The express lane project on Independence is scheduled to be in place by late 2019.

The longer I-485 project will follow in 2022.

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