Project Overview and Purpose
The I-77 Express Lanes project will help provide more reliable travel times on 26 miles of I-77 from the Brookshire Freeway (Exit 11) in Mecklenburg County to N.C. 150 (Exit 36) in Iredell County.
The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization requested that the N.C. Department of Transportation develop express lane projects on I-77, as well as on I-485 and U.S. 74. NCDOT determined it would approach the I-77 project as a public-private partnership to leverage private funding to build and open the project sooner than with state funding.
I-77 Mobility Partners Contract Review
I-77 Express Lanes Contract Review
Share Your Feedback
NCDOT wants to hear your thoughts about the contract.
Some residents and local leaders have voiced concerns about the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners.
NCDOT heard those concerns and and utilized the services of an independent consultant, Mercator Advisors LLC, to conduct a formal, in-depth review of all aspects of the contract and project.
On Aug. 10, 2017, Mercator released a draft report to receive public feedback. Members of the public provided feedback on the report through NCDOT's website and by email.
On Sept. 19, 2017, Mercator released a final report of its review, which includes public comments and concerns regarding the contract. The report is presented as an addendum to the draft report and provides a list of options for NCDOT and an assessment of each of those options.
Although the final report has been released, the department always welcomes public feedback, which can be submitted through this website.
About the Review
Mercator's scope of work included:
- Analyzing the allocation of key project risks and the potential financial liabilities assumed or shared by each partner
- Reviewing comments and suggestions submitted by project stakeholders and the public
- Evaluating the merits and potential costs associated with various policy options
More information about the scope of work is available in a presentation to the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization on April 19, 2017. A presentation from August about the draft report can be found here. The latest presentation from September can be found here.
NCDOT selected Mercator to lead this effort because it has no previous involvement in the project and has an extensive transportation finance background. The firm provides a wide array of financial consulting services to public agencies that sponsor major infrastructure projects and capital assistance programs. Mercator's clients include federal, state and local governmental agencies.
The N.C. Turnpike Authority staff is facilitating the review process since it was not part of the original I-77 contract negotiations. The Turnpike Authority is supporting Mercator's data and logistical needs.
The cost of the review was approximately $100,000.
The department has created a local advisory group, which was a request from local citizens. Each municipality, county and business chamber along the corridor has selected a participant for the group. Group participants will provide advice and input on the options identified in the Mercator Advisors report.
The first advisory group meeting will take place in early 2018.
What Will the Project Do?
As currently planned, there will be two express lanes added in each direction between uptown Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. Between Cornelius and Exit 36 in Mooresville, there will be one express lane added in each direction.
The existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes (one in each direction), commonly known as carpool lanes, on the southern part of the project are being converted to express lanes.
The existing lanes will always remain free of charge. The project is not adding or taking away any general-purpose lanes, but the lanes will be resurfaced to preserve the pavement and provide motorists with a smoother ride.
Express Lanes: The Power to Choose
Express lanes offer drivers a choice: Pay a toll and use the express lanes to avoid travel delays or continue driving on the general-purpose lanes for free. Motorcyclists, buses and carpoolers with three or more occupants (including the driver) may use the express lanes for free.
The power to choose is entirely in the hands of motorists. They can individually determine how valuable their time is and decide if the time they will save is worth the cost of taking the express lanes.
Drivers who choose not to use the express lanes will also see a benefit. As other motorists opt to take the express lanes, congestion in the general-purpose lanes will lessen, making the commute more efficient for those relying on the free lanes, as well.
North Carolina isn't the only state investing in express lanes as a way to alleviate traffic backups. California, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Florida and Georgia are among those successfully using them in urban areas to make travel more efficient for all drivers.
How Traffic Will Flow
Along the 26-mile I-77 corridor, drivers will be able to enter and exit express lanes in several locations. This map provides a detailed look at those locations.
These points will give drivers multiple opportunities to decide if they want to take advantage of the time-saving benefits the express lanes offer. They will also help ensure motorists can easily reach their destinations from the express lanes. Each segment in the corridor will be tolled separately, and drivers will see signs prior to the entry point of each segment that indicate the amount of the toll.
Varying the price of the express lanes based on the amount of congestion ensures travel speeds of at least 45 mph during peak travel times while vehicles on the general-purpose lanes might be moving at a slower pace.
Tolling will be electronic; there will be no toll booths stopping traffic. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority, not I-77 Mobility Partners, will handle billing drivers for tolls. A driver who uses the express lanes will pay the toll through one of three methods:
- A transponder account with the North Carolina Turnpike Authority
- An existing transponder account with EZ-Pass, PeachPass or SunPass
- A bill by mail (plus administrative costs) based upon a photograph of the license plate
CATS buses, identifiable carpools of three or more people, emergency vehicles and motorcyclists will not be charged tolls to travel in the express lanes.
I-77 Mobility Partners and NCDOT's Public-Private Partnership
In June 2014, NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners, a limited liability corporation created by Cintra specifically for the I-77 Express Lanes
project, signed a Comprehensive Agreement for the delivery of the I-77 Express Lanes project. This agreement established North Carolina's first
public-private partnership to design, build, finance, operate and maintain highway infrastructure.
News and Updates
Louis Mitchell, P.E.
Division 10 Engineer
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716 W. Main St.
Albemarle, NC 28001
Resources for Local Property Owners
Although the N.C. Department of Transportation works to minimize the number of homes and businesses displaced by a road project, it is inevitable, in many cases, that a certain amount of private property is needed. The following information explains right of way acquisition and answers questions about the process.