CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A major toll lane project in the Queen City is hitting a snag.
Construction on the I-485 toll lanes was supposed to be done this year, but crews hit delays.
NCDOT named several issues including relocating utilities, acquiring rights of way, and changes to the scope of the project all as reasons the creation of what are supposed to be pay-to-play fast lanes is hitting a slowdown.
The fast lane is going to come with a cost.
“You still see tons of construction both lanes, both directions,” said Michael Fisher, who lives in Ballantyne.
The $346 million toll lane project on I-485, stretching from I-77 about 16 miles to Highway 74, was supposed to be wrapped up this year, but NC DOT now says construction delays are pushing back the opening date about two more years to winter 2024.
“I avoid 485 if I can, but if you’re going to get around Charlotte, you’ve got to get on 485,” said Fisher.
Crews are building two more lanes in the southern section of I-485, one in each direction. Both of them will be tolls.
“I just find that to be a double-dip in the tax. We’ve already paid the construction in taxes, and now we’re going to pay to use the road that we already paid in taxes, doesn’t make sense to me at all,” said Jeremiah Needham, who lives in Plaza Midwood.
Just like on I-77, drivers will have a choice: sit in traffic in the general lanes or bypass the gridlock by paying the toll.
“I am going to choose the toll lane whenever it fits me best,” said Fisher. “I do mind paying a little extra, but at the end of the day, it’s a choice that you have to make.”
Needham says it’s probably only a matter of time before we hear a big stink about the 485 tolls like we did with 77.
He refuses to pay the toll.
“That sounds ridiculous and when I’m sitting in the traffic and I’m watching empty lanes to the right or the left, I think that that’s wrong. I’m a taxpayer too in the state and the county,” said Needham.
Queen City News asked NC DOT why put in toll lanes instead of widening the interstate without tolls?
They responded by referring us to a 2007 study. They studied several different corridors in the Charlotte area, and section 485 was chosen as one of the areas that would benefit the most from tolls.