Proposal submitted to state for express lanes on I-77 south of Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — A proposal for express lanes on Interstate 77 south of Charlotte to the South Carolina state line has been submitted to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The unsolicited concept was discussed for more than a half hour during a meeting of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization in March.

NCDOT officials made it clear to board members that this proposal was not requested and was submitted by a private company. Transportation leaders did say that the state has had internal discussions on toll lanes in this section of the interstate, but this was the first proposal received.

The submitted plan called for a public-private partnership to build the project similar to the 26 miles of express lanes from I-277 in Charlotte to Mooresville.

Details on the concept were not shared and the company who proposed the idea was kept anonymous due to state rules, but members of the transportation board were asked to decide whether state officials should screen the idea further.

“We’ve got to collectively decide if this is the right move for us to make, but at anytime there is off ramps if it turns out that the Metropolitan Planning Organization isn’t in favor of it,” said Brett Canipe, a local engineer for the DOT who presented the proposal.

State officials say plans for an express way on that portion of the highway are already in the works. Any final plan would have to be approved by CRTPO.

Several board members expressed strong opposition to the project citing the negative experience with the last public-private partnership that built the I-77 toll lanes north of Charlotte.

Despite the dissenting opinions, Ron Pappas, the chair of the transportation board and mayor of Waxhaw, asked NCDOT to come back with further information at a later date before board members take a formal vote.

“We should look at everything that is proposed, we don’t have to take action,” Pappas said.

Screening the proposal will not cost any additional information, according to Canipe. It was not immediately clear when the transportation planning organization would hear about the idea again.

Channel 9′s Glenn Counts spoke with residents who frequently travel along Interstate 77 about the decision.

Most residents said they did not see the need for the toll roads.

“You know, to me, it’s just another way to gather revenue to waste it. To spend it. There’s never any accountability,” motorist Wayne Lonnen said.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand. I mean, I just don’t get why people have toll roads,” motorist Alexandria Forney said.

(WATCH BELOW: Pandemic causes revenue loss for local toll lanes)