Turning I-77 shoulders into travel lanes may be delayed

Turning I-77 shoulders into travel lanes may be delayed

Work to turn the shoulders of Interstate 77 north of Charlotte into travel lanes during rush hours might be delayed.

The state transportation board is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to delay construction from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2021. The Department of Transportation says it needs more time to plan and design the $47 million project.

The extra time, if approved, won’t mean a full-year delay in construction, DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson said. The vote would move money for the project from the fiscal year ending June 30 to the year beginning July 1.

“The fiscal year move was needed to better align with the current schedule and allows planning and design work to continue beyond July 1,” she said.

After years of construction that left many north Mecklenburg County commuters unhappy that I-77 had been expanded with toll lanes, a regional transportation board agreed to a funding swap last July to create the shoulder lanes.

A portion of the toll lanes, from Mooresville to Huntersville, opened last June with the rest opening in November. Up to 100,000 vehicles a day travel I-77 through northern Mecklenburg, according to 2018 state data.

Up to six segments of shoulders between interchanges in the I-77 corridor — from N.C. 150 in Mooresville to I-485 in Charlotte — would be opened to ease the heavy traffic seen on weekday mornings and afternoons.

Construction was initially expected to start this spring or summer. The current schedule would start construction late this year, Thompson said, so moving funds between fiscal years does not affect that schedule.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.

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