Last section of I-77 Express toll road in N.C .now open
November 18, 2019
•Land Line Staff
After four years of construction and deadline extension, the last stretch of the I-77 Express toll project in North Carolina is finally opened.
The final phase of the 26 miles of toll or “express” lanes on Interstate 77 opened to all drivers on Saturday, Nov. 16, according to a news release from I-77 Mobility Partners. The $647 million project started in November 2015 and stretches from N.C. 150 in Mooresville to the Brookshire Freeway/I-277 in Charlotte.
The completion marks the end of a tumultuous affair that saw the contractor, Cintra, ask for multiple deadline extensions in order to finish the project. The original completion deadline was Jan. 7.
In mid-2014, the North Carolina Department of Transportation announced that Cintra was chosen to build and manage toll lanes on I-77. The contract allows Cintra to control toll lanes for 50 years through 2068.
Historically, Cintra has had problems with toll road contracts in the United States. Its portfolio includes the Indiana Toll Road, Chicago Skyway and the SH 130 toll in Texas.
Cintra filed for bankruptcy in 2016 because of outstanding debt for the SH 130 toll road. Issues for that project were visible when NCDOT awarded Cintra the I-77 toll contract. Shortly after the bankruptcy announcement, North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Nick Tennyson indicated what happened with the SH 130 toll road should not affect the I-77 toll road contract.
In September 2014, Cintra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Cintra more than doubled rates after acquiring the Indiana Toll Road, leading to reduced traffic. Less than a year later, Cintra and partners put the Chicago Skyway up for sale.
I-77 Express virtual tour
I-77 Express runs adjacent to the existing general purpose lanes. Drivers have the option of using the express lanes, general purpose lanes or a combination of both. The number of free general purpose lanes remains the same.
Drivers can take a virtual ride of the I-77 Express toll lanes at I77express.com.
In addition to the building of the express lanes, multiple structures were replaced, improved or newly constructed, including:
- New direct connector ramps at the I-277/Brookshire Freeway into and from I-77 Express.
- Replaced I-277 southbound ramp to I-77 Southbound.
- Replaced Oaklawn Avenue bridge and added new sidewalks, bike lanes and lighting.
- Replaced LaSalle Street bridge and added new sidewalks, bike lanes and lighting, and extended the I-77 on-ramp all the way to the I-85 interchange.
- New direct connector ramps providing access to I-85.
- Replaced Lakeview and Hambright Road bridges, and added sidewalks, bike lanes and lighting, and new direct connector ramps to I-77 Express. (Drivers will be able to access the Lakeview Road Direct Connector approximately one week after I-77 Express opens.).
- New pedestrian tunnel under I-77 in Huntersville for future connection of the Torrence Creek Greenway.
- New roundabouts at the Griffith Street Bridge for the Town of Davidson.
- Installed over one million square feet of noise walls along the corridor.
- Rehabilitated the general purpose lanes in the corridor.
The I-77 Express lanes have signs one-quarter mile ahead of each segment that displays the transponder toll rate applicable to drive that segment. The toll rate displayed when entering I-77 Express is the price motorists will be charged for that segment. With the full opening of I-77 Express, regular scheduled rates apply, and the current 25 percent discount will expire. Learn more about toll rates here.
I-77 Expressway announced that dynamic pricing will begin December 1. The company says during dynamic mode, toll rates may change as often as every five minutes to accommodate changes in demand for I-77 Express. Toll rates will be based on segment length, time of day, and demand for I-77 Express.
The new express lanes are compatible with the NC Quick Pass transponder. SunPass, Peach Pass and E-ZPass transponders are also accepted. For customers without a NC Quick Pass, SunPass, Peach Pass or E-ZPass transponder, cameras will capture an image of the vehicle’s license plate, and NC Quick Pass will mail a bill to the vehicle’s registered owner through the Bill by Mail program.
Staff writer Tyson Fisher contributed to this report.