No changes announced for I-77 toll lane project

- Ticked off over the toll lanes? Nothing is changing-- at least for now. The state transportation secretary is saying his hands are tied.

"It was a lot of hope and a lot of hype," said Bill Russell, President of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

The small conference room was packed at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce. Residents and local leaders told Fox 46 they hoped for big change to the I-77 toll lane project.

"Not the significant announcement we wanted to hear," said Russell.

No decision was made. The contract with Cintra still stands. The toll lanes are set to open by the end of the year.

Russell says this will hurt business.

"It's going to stifle commerce, inhibit our ability to bring some of the corporations and businesses we want in. It is already making an impact on businesses choosing to leave the area. It also impacts quality of life."

But this isn't the end of the road. N.C. Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon says he's pursuing modifications to both the contract with Cintra and the toll lane project.

These include:

  • A cap for how much the company can charge for drivers using the tolls
  • Converting one toll lane into a general purpose lane between exits 23 and 28
  • The department of transportation taking over the tolls from Cintra

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett is a member of the I-77 Advisory Group.

"This is an economic disaster in the making. If we do not understand the cost of not fixing this and factor that in, we're going to pay for this over the next five decades in economic development," said Puckett.

As things stand right now, the changes to the contract would be up to negotiations with Cintra. Any changes to the project would be in direct competition with other road projects for limited state dollars. It will be next year before we learn if and when anything will be changed.

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