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Without Cintra, Chalotte I-77 South Toll Lanes Could Take 25 years...

....if the stars align.

Earlier this week, the Charlotte Ledger had a story about the possible extension of the I-77 Toll Lanes south to the South Carolina line.  Recently, Cintra, the company that built the toll lanes from Uptown Charlotte to Mooresville, submitted an unsolicited bid to construct and operate the toll lanes themselves.

Cintra says that if awarded a contract, they could have the toll lanes up and running by 2029. They would then operate the toll lanes on a 50-year lease.  NCDOT says it would be in 2029 that they could begin to acquire the right of way.  NCDOT also estimated it would take another 15 years to secure all the funding necessary to start construction.  Apparently, the state has rules on the available amount of money that can go to a specific project or corridor at one time.

This news led to major heartburn for local leaders, who conceded that on a road that currently averages 160,000 vehicles per day with traffic at or above capacity seven to 11 hours a day, something may need to be done sooner.  NCDOT predicts that by 2050 traffic will reach an average of 185,000 vehicles per day, and the highway at or beyond peak capacity 15-17 hours of the day.  I need to tell my kids that they better find another way to take their kids to Carowinds in 2040.

So the question is: Do local leaders want to risk the headaches of another contract with Cintra? Or do they sit and wait for NCDOT to hopefully start construction in 20-25 years - hope that the schedule stays on target - and then look for additional funding resources to improve or even hold the timeline.  It'll be worth watching; meanwhile, you may want to grab a Snickers.

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