I-77 toll lane project could be terminated

- Tolls on I-77 could be completely eliminated, as some say it comes at too high a price for other road projects in our area.

FOX 46 got Governor Roy Cooper's take on proposed legislation that makes money available to cancel or modify the toll lane project.

The state senate passed an amendment Thursday that makes $620 million available to pay for costs or penalties tied to canceling or modifying the I-77 toll lane project.

"They could literally terminate that project, make it all general purpose lanes, and bring the project under the NCDOT," said Senator Jeff Tarte who represents Mecklenburg County.

Tarte says the money would come from several different places.

"$75 million, that's identified in the current contract if the toll projects aren't hitting their revenue targets, we could accelerate that. We added utility monies from the municipalities."

The lawmaker who first proposed the amendment in the house says the senate's version is bad for other road projects.

Representative John Bradford wrote: "The additional provisions added by the senate would negatively impact current STI project dollars for projects such as widening of Hwy 73, Hwy 74, I-485 and other projects in the region, too.

It is no secret or surprise that any funding solution must avoid negatively impacting other projects. A majority of legislators will not support a provision that will remove funding for their district’s local road project(s) to provide funding to modify/terminate the I-77 project. Any language contrary to that scenario simply won’t get enough support for passage.”

To that, Senator Tarte responded, "The only projects that will be impacted will be local to Mecklenburg and Iredell. Even projects locally that are in the window of being contracted or approved. They won't be impacted. What it will impact will be projects that are 5 years out or longer. And that's ok because 77 is the most critical transit problem. If we don't solve this, those other highways don't matter at all."

We asked Governor Roy Cooper if he is in favor of the amendment.

"What I want is a situation that helps. What's happening over there now is that they're drawing amendments and not paying a whole lot of attention to what the practical effects are. What I want to see is a situation that will allow the secretary of transportation to have flexibility to help fix this problem."

The transportation secretary is set to have a decision by the end of July. Senator Tarte says the $620 million is only available until October 15, so time is ticking for a decision on the tolls.

FOX 46 asked NCDOT for a statement regarding the pending legislation.

“NCDOT continues to work with communities along the corridor to seek options that respond to the concerns of the people in northern Mecklenburg County, but at the same time do not negatively impact the transportation priorities of other communities. We are closely following all proposed legislation. There could still be additional modifications. Once legislation becomes law, NCDOT will be able to analyze impacts.”

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