COVER STORY: Interstate 77 Project

WBT Cover Story
Thursday, May 18th

WBT's Mark Garrison investigates the I-77 Toll Lane Project and its impact in the community. 


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Stupid idea. They waste of money might winning like so many around Cornelius outraged that the state turned over a section of interstate two companies from Spain wire repaying. A company from overseas to build maintain and road to collect tolls from here pleasant mine I'm going to our local economy. So how did this come about two words. Money and congestion. At. Seven suggestion is a daily problem lies 77 it's getting worse says north may grow. You build interstate highway with two lanes north two lane sciele and it's seen a 500%. Increase in population over the period of time from when an open we know had a capacity. All the congestion led to cries of do something and that brings us to money. The state decided the cheapest way to widen I 77. Was to turn 26 miles of it over to a private company to build tolling it's. The company would do the construction profit from the tolls and the state would save millions sounded good on paper. Is a huge mess and this is the problem with doing things fast and easy and not looking at the big picture county commissioner Jim Puckett one of those leading the charge against the told rode the toll road will not lessen congestion. Why won't congestion improve with the extra lanes. Opponents say the reason is simple but tolls will be too expensive when holes or ten or twenty dollars one way. Only one out of five course are stuck in traffic won't go to patrolling. Those genes appear with the company building the tolled lanes believes people will use. Mean I'm hearing from everyday. People looking forward to having in this open in our next report how much would you pay for told. What garrison WB teams. The price would change but every fifteen minutes correct Jeanne Lear is director of corporate affairs for the company building the soul plane. Signs that are up we'll tell you. What their race is for each side. Driving on the tolled lanes will be like shopping in a supermarket where price tags constantly change. Let's say if you enter and it's a dollar even if it goes up for the person behind you you just pay that dollar so how will it work. When you pull under the tolled lanes either a picture of your license tag is staffed by fans who should. Or you can buy a little device to transmit your whole activity premier online there I never really know what my bill's going to be well drivers will be setting up accounts. You have online access to your account and every time you drive the toll lanes be sure your price will be different. We do use congestion management pricey. Congestion management pricing is a term that simply means that traffic heavy told prices go up the theory is the higher tolls will just attract drivers who really need to go faster. And are willing to pay a premium. That's how they make a profit county commissioner Jim Puckett says the told project is a rip off for drivers. And it's all about profit for central the company from Spain building the project. That's why you have twenty dollar to hoses you raise that and by the way that you be even higher and that will we rarely see twenty dollar yet he's he says that won't have quelled those people are crazy it doesn't do us any good. To set the rates so high that nobody wants to use the contact Jeanne. Lear says the rates haven't been said. She cites one study that projects tolls of about forty cents a mile. Under that scenario the typical user would spend about sixteen bucks a week or more than 800 dollars a year. Opponents point to studies that say the tolls will take a lot of money out of local cash registers. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of of Ford F five billion dollars out of local economy over the news of the next few years. In our next report political pressure trying to stop the told. Mark Harrison WP team. We are giving our public right of way to a private companies that they can profit off of public misery. That is curt Knox he's been fighting the I 77 told project with time and money letter group that sued unsuccessfully. To stop it's a bad plan residents of north Mecklenburg are furious they simply wanted a high 77 widened to help with the massive congestion. But to save money the state hired a foreign company sentry. Turned the interstate over to them to add tolled lanes and charge as much as they want for the tolls. They're really going to be criminal indictment service that the way this contract was it was set up. Those opposing the tolled lanes have turned into a powerful political force play that game. Governor thousands of north Mecklenburg resonance mini album Republicans turned out to vote against Pat McCrory last November and it cost him the election. I've said often that it was a contract that I would not have earned. Democrat Roy Cooper criticize the project during the campaign now has a consultant looking into whether the contract with centric can be canceled or reworked. I think this companies got some problems I think the whole project has problems. Republican county commissioner Jim Puckett says he thinks governor Cooper will take this seriously out of your front that was not Roy Cooper mistake. But it is his now. If he doesn't Puckett says north Mac will turn on Cooper in 20/20 if this is still there governor group. Storch 40000 votes in the hole the data the polls open that's just the Cuban do you get yelled at a lot. I mean earlier the company building Elaine says she's happy to answer questions and talk to anyone even those who hate to project. She cheerfully predicts once told lanes are open skeptics will be converted. When people actually have a chance to be on it and I think that is going to change. It's the project has not stopped toll lanes are due to open late next year. Mark Harrison WBT news.