NC planning group approves toll lanes for I-77
CHARLOTTE (AP) — A two-county planning group has given unanimous approval to build toll lanes on a portion of Interstate 77 despite protests from critics.
The Charlotte Observer reports Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization voted Wednesday to amend its transportation plans to include the $550 million project. The toll lanes would be built on the interstate from Charlotte to Mooresville.
A leading Republican lawmaker and a senior transportation department official said Thursday that work on the new toll lanes could start next year. Jim Trogdon, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s chief operating officer, said officials hope to open bids in August with construction starting in 2014.
Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews, who co-chairs the House Transportation Committee, said lawmakers have come to see toll lanes as “the least bad answer” to I-77 congestion.
Public meetings about the toll roads have drawn the ire of local residents, including those attending Wednesday’s organization meeting. GOP Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville has joined those protesting toll lanes. Brawley says people shouldn’t be required to pay twice for roads they’re already paying for with taxes. He has said he’s gathering support among legislators to reverse the General Assembly’s 2012 vote in favor of tolls.
Robert Brawley resigned his chairmanship of the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, alleging that Speaker Thom Tillis has mishandled legislation and aggressively confronted him on a bill the speaker personally opposed. He also publicly accused the speaker of having ties with tolling companies.
The House recently passed a bill opening the door for new toll roads if the state also maintains the same number of free lanes that were previously available.