Will I-77 "advisory group" really make an impact?

NCDOT is putting together a group to be brutally honest about I-77 problems, but will they really listen? NCDOT officials say the group will be a voice for citizens on how I-77 is impacting them. FOX 46 Charlotte set out to see if this new group could really have an impact on the future of the highway.

The idea for the group came along after Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett met with Governor Roy Cooper. FOX 46 Charlotte reporter Brett Baldeck asked Puckett Tuesday night just how much impact the new group could have.

"Lets say hypothetically they came back [the group] and suggested to get rid of the toll lanes completely, make them all free lanes, do you firmly believe that NCDOT would go ahead and do that?" asked Brett Baldeck.

"Well. I don't think that is a viable option to be brutally honest with you. The biggest problem is we have to understand how we deal with mass transit on I-77 and you do have to have a managed lane of some sort either a HOV lane or a toll lane," said Puckett.

FOX 46 Charlotte asked the same question to NCDOT, who told us to talk with a spokesperson by phone in Raleigh.

"I would say they are going to listen, that's the whole point of the group is to get feedback from the different participants and work through the different solutions," said the Spokesperson.

Other possible solutions NCDOT is eluding to is a modified toll project or an end to the public-private partnership.

Tuesday night, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham was the first to be appointed to the group.

FOX 46 Charlotte asked why a citizen wasn't appointed.

"It was important to me that we have a more diverse group. That's one of the reasons I really wanted to have Pat Cotham because she is a female Democrat who also has been involved," said Cotham.

There are 12 municipalities along I-77 who will be appointing people to join the advisory group. FOX 46 Charlotte is told some of the suggestions will include citizens. The plan is to have the group meet a few times every month.