Among the claims in the lawsuit, Widen I-77 says the NC DOT is violating state law by converting an existing general purpose lane on a stretch of I-77 into a toll lane and not replacing it. Widen I-77 also argues the contract for the project allows the DOT to collect a percentage of toll revenues, which the group claims is against the state constitution. Click here to read the entire lawsuit.The DOT released the following statement. "NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners are continuing to work toward financial close. The deadline will be extended without penalty, as allowed under the contract, because both parties are working together to complete all requirements. NCDOT will not comment on any pending litigation at this time.
The I-77 Express Lanes project will provide a long term solution to one of the most congested roadways in our state by giving drivers a choice to continue using general purpose lanes for free, use the new express lanes for free with three or more people in the car or choose to pay to use express lanes with fewer than 3 people for a more predictable travel time. Through a Public Private Partnership this solution will be operational in a few years instead of waiting decades and it will be built at a fraction of the cost to the state."
Kurt Naas, spokesperson for Widen I-77, said state funding would be available to widen I-77 in the area which is most needed around Huntersville and Cornelius. Naas says the toll lane plan will cost taxpayers more than a widening project.
Naas said, "The taxpayer is contributing the entire right of way free of cost to Cintra. The taxpayer is contributing $88 million to the cost of the project, and they're also going to guarantee any short fall in toll revenues up to $75 million, so this is a bad deal for the citizens in the Lake Norman region. It's a bad deal for the taxpayers of North Carolina."
The group is against adding "HOT Lanes" between Uptown Charlotte and the Lake Norman area. The toll to use the lanes would change depending on roadway congestion and would charge motorists based on the distance they travel. Other metropolitan areas have installed similar lanes, including recently Atlanta. (Click here to read a 2011 story from the Fox station in Atlanta.)