Officials frustrated with pace of construction on I-77

Credit: WJZY

Local officials are becoming frustrated with the pace of construction on a portion of Interstate 77 in North Carolina.

Exactly one week ago, on Feb. 20, transportation officials met with local leaders to address the myraid concerns drivers have surrounding the toll lane project. Many of them said the meetings are becoming a waste of time as little new information is coming from them. 

"This was not much different from the last meeting we had and from the first meeting we had," said Iredell County Commissioner Jeff McNeely.

The group has been meeting for more than a year. Some members of the group, which includes opponents to the toll lanes, were told in August that the NCDOT was developing a series of steps to improve the 26-mile project.

RELATED: What would it take to cancel the I-77 toll lane project?

Possible changes include opening the shoulders to traffic during peak congestion, coming up with a frequent user rebate and finding a way to make the pricing structure more transparent as the cost of tolls varies throughout the day.

Group members had been expecting to hear details last Wednesday on what the state will do, and how it will eventually move toward state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon’s goal of buying I-77 Mobility Partners out of its contract and putting the toll lanes entirely under public control. Instead, those details could come at the advisory group’s next meeting in late summer or early fall.

“I was surprised and disappointed,” said Kurt Naas, a Cornelius commissioner and long-time toll opponent, after the meeting. “They basically presented the same thing that happened in August. What’s been going on the last six months? We don’t have costs, we don’t have time frames, we don’t have anything.”

The 26-mile project was expected to open by the end of 2018. Now, I-77 Mobility Partners, the subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure firm Cintra, which is building the toll lanes and will collect revenue for 50 years, says the northern part of the project is expected to open by spring. That stretch covers from Interstate 485 to Mooresville.

The rest of the $670 million project, from downtown Charlotte to I-485, should be open by the end of October.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.