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Interstate 77 toll lanes: Questions and Answers

Where can I enter and exit the managed lanes?

There will be entrance/exit points at the southern end, at Interstate 277 in Charlotte and the northern end at Exit 36 in Mooresville. As the plan stands now, additional points will be between I-85 (Exit 13) and Sunset Road (Exit 16), between Sunset and Harris Boulevard (Exit 18), between Hambright Road and Gilead Road (Exit 23), between Sam Furr Road (Exit 25) and Westmoreland Road, between Langtree Road (Exit 31) and Williamson Road (Exit 33).

If you’re already on I-77, there will be designated merge areas that allow drivers to move into and out of managed lanes.

Where will the managed lanes be?

Two managed lanes in each direction will extend from I-277 to Exit 28. One in each direction will continue to Exit 36. They’ll be on the inside, to the left of the regular lanes.

Will there be toll booths?

No. They’ll use an electronic toll collection system. You can order a transponder for your car and have your credit card charged or a prepaid account debited. If you don’t have a transponder, the system will photograph your license number and bill by mail.

How much will tolls cost?

Rates haven’t been set. Lanes operator Cintra will set prices lower during less congested periods and higher when the lanes fill. That ensures speeds remains at least 45 mph. The lanes will be free to carpools of three or more, motorcycles and bus riders.

How often can toll prices change?

As often as every five minutes. You’re charged the price that displays when you enter a managed lane segment. It could change as you enter the next segment, but you’d have a choice to exit.

How does the managed lane know when I’ve got a carpool of at least three people?

You can register your carpool with the state and get a transponder.

Are there other toll lanes in North Carolina?

Just one – the Triangle Expressway on N.C. 540, but the state runs it. It’s a traditional toll project, not a managed lane.

An affiliate of Cintra recently filed bankruptcy on an Indiana toll project. Is Cintra in financial trouble?

Cintra says no. Though it has faced problems with toll projects in Texas and Indiana, each of its projects is independent, a Cintra spokesman said, so the performance of one never affects another. Cintra, with U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas, is a subsidiary of the global infrastructure company Ferrovial, which holds investment grade ratings by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

What would happen if Cintra defaulted on its lender?

The lender could find another company to run the project or, if it didn’t, the state would get the project at a fraction of its total cost.

What happens if toll revenues fall so short that Cintra can’t cover its debt service?

The state has agreed to cover the difference, but it wouldn’t pay more than $75 million over the 50-year contract. The N.C. DOT says that $75 million, coupled with the state’s $88 million investment, is still less than the $170 million the state set as its maximum for the project.

Pam Kelley

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