RALEIGH – A ban on tolls for I-77, introduced today by Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Charlotte), was postponed in the Senate Transportation committee. Yesterday, Tarte announced his intention to introduce the bill while flanked by business leaders from the Lake Norman area who strongly oppose planned construction along I-77 that would add HOV and toll lanes. The group went door to door Tuesday, lobbying lawmakers to support the measure. They did not appear to be present in committee today where it was the last item on the agenda.
“It will be rescheduled for a later committee meeting,” said Tarte. “But they were pleased with the response they got here. Now it will be just one vote at a time.”
The ban is in a Proposed Committee Substitute to the Transportation Funding Bill (SB639). It stops the project, but does not outline a plan to pay for a different widening plan or for the $100 billion contract cancellation fee. The language is also specific to the I-77 corridor saying,
The Department of Transportation is prohibited from expending funds, or participating in any way in the construction of toll lanes on or adjacent to Interstate 77 between exits 23 and 36 in Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties.
The project is dividing communities along I-77 outside Charlotte, where traffic congestion is high. This Public-Private Partnership (P3) project, the first of its kind in the state, has been in the works since 2007 when it was requested by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization. Opponents say the 50-year contract limits future flexibility, tolls prices are uncertain and the design could hurt small communities along the route. Supporters say action is needed now to ease congestion and if they were to cancel the contract and pay the early termination fee, any widening would be years away, if at all.