CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) — The I-77 toll lanes were a major pain point in the community when they opened in 2019. Almost three years later, they’re making big money.
Toll Lanes nearly doubled in revenue in 2021 compared to 2020. In the fourth quarter of 2021 alone, Toll Lanes brought in $11.5 million, compared to $4.785 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. For all of 2021, the I-77 tolls brought in more than $35.084 million.
When the toll lanes were proposed, people were against it and wanted the road widened instead.
However, some opinions have changed over the years, especially due to the revenue generated by the expressway last year.
“I wasn’t for them at first when they were built,” said Davidson resident Jana Cline.
Cline told WBTV that she was unfamiliar with tolls and did not like the traffic build-up that ensued.
“More recently I’ve used them, especially when I’m in a bad traffic jam or in a rush to run errands,” she said.
“Whatever you think about tolls, they’re there, so having them used and working for me is positive,” said Cornelius resident Meredith Connelly.
People interviewed by WBTV in Davidson said they mostly use the tolls for emergencies, when they are late or stuck in traffic.
Others indicate that the pandemic has contributed to the increase in toll revenue.
“I think it’s safe to say that with 2020 things were a bit calmer due to the pandemic and people being at home. I also think the growth in the region has been significant, so I think there’s traffic that would correlate with that as well,” Connelly said.
I-77 Mobility Partners, which maintains and operates the express lanes on I-77, told WBTV it saw a drop in traffic volume when the pandemic hit, but express lane transactions rebound, more and more people being mobile and returning to the office. for work.
“I-77 Mobility Partners has seen a steady increase in the number of drivers choosing to use I-77 Express as employees return to their offices and the economy begins to recover,” said CEO Jose Espinosa. “I also think our transactions have increased because more and more drivers see our express lanes as what they were designed for: a safe and reliable travel option. We are very proud that almost three million unique vehicles have used the lanes since they opened in November 2019, and some 300,000 drivers use them every month. »
Considering the increase in traffic on the roads and the variation of toll rates depending on the volume of traffic, some understand the increase in revenue.
“I see where they get their money from, I see how the price has gone up and the profits have gone up,” said another resident.
I-77 Mobility Partners told WBTV that drivers on express lanes are infrequent and most drivers pay less than $10 a month.
“I think it would be nice to have a flat rate or something personally consistent, but I think it depends on who you are,” Connelly said.
The 26 miles of tolls from Uptown to Iredell County are operated and maintained by I-77 Mobility Partners, but the state still owns ownership of the road.
The I-77 expressways were a public-private project that cost $647 million. I-77 Mobility Partners paid most of the construction cost, so the company can set toll rates and collect revenue for 50 years.
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