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Prior to its Town Board meeting Monday  night, Huntersville Commissioners received a presentation from Town Transportation Planner Bill Coxe on a plan by NC DOT that has progressed rapidly since the start of the year to utilize a public-private-partnership (P3) to finance the widening of I-77 from the Brookshire Freeway (I-277) in Charlotte to NC-150 in Mooresville.

Coxe also provided background on national and state road funding challenges and the evolution of how to add capacity to I-77 and pay for it.  This evolution has the State seeking to utilize the P3 approach to leverage private sector interest in the project to finance the improvements.  RFP’s are currently out and NC DOT expects to announce the preferred proposer in December 2012.  They could close on a firm by the spring of next year and would likely enter into a 50-year agreement with the selected proposing firm to widen and manage the I-77 HOT lane project.

NC DOT has created a project website for I-77 High Occupancy Toll Lanes Public Private Partnership, and it can be found online here: http://www.ncdot.gov/doh/preconstruct/altern/design_build/HOCTPARTNERSHIP/HOCtollppp.html

Under the proposed plan, all existing HOV lanes will be converted to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and require a carpool to have 3-plus passengers to access the additional lanes without being charged a toll.  This would follow a trend nationally of converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes as outlined in Phase III of the Charlotte Region Fast Lanes Study by NC DOT.  Under this model tolls are used to manage the lanes and pricing would vary depending on congestion to ensure the lanes do not get over crowded.  This concept is also being considered for I-485 South, and US-74 East. 

The widening is planned in three phases: from I-277 to I-85, from I-85 to Exit 28 in Cornelius and from Exit 28 (W. Catawba Ave) in Cornelius to Exit 36 (NC150) in Mooresville.

The Southern Section of the Corridor extends from south of I-277 in Charlotte near the Tryon Street interchange northward to the junction of I-85 and I-77 for an approximate length of 2.2 miles. This portion of the project requires right of way and requires both HOV lane conversion as well as new additional HOT lanes adjacent to the existing general purpose lanes. Initial concepts include a direct connection from the I-77 HOT lanes to and from I-277.

The Central Section of the Corridor begins at the junction of I-85 and I-77 and proceeds northward to Exit 28 near Cornelius, NC.  The length of this section is roughly 14.9 miles and includes the conversion of existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes and the addition of an additional HOT lane adjacent to the converted HOV lanes.  Northward of the existing HOV lanes, the section includes the addition of two new HOT lanes in each direction within the existing median.

The Northern Section of the Corridor begins at Exit 28 and extends northward to as far as Exit 36 at NC 150 for an approximate length of 8.8 miles.  Within the Northern Section, one additional HOT lane will be provided in each direction.

Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) has been requested to make administrative findings at their June 20 meeting to allow the central section to proceed.  Click here for full MUMPO meeting agenda for June 20, 2012. 

The MUMPO agenda packet also includes the public comments from the April 3, 2012 through May 2, 2012 public comment period for citizen input on proposed improvements to I-77 (TIP project I-5405) and I-485 (TIP project R-4902).

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