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After four years of construction-related headaches, the final stretch of Interstate 77 toll lanes opened Saturday.
Drivers traveling between Lake Norman and uptown Charlotte may now use all 26 miles of express lanes — provided they’re willing to pay. The final stretch, about 11.5 miles long, opened Saturday between uptown Charlotte and I-485 near Huntersville.
Why it matters: For decades now, Charlotte has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and along with that growth has come traffic congestion. The new toll lanes are meant to address the growing congestion on I-77.
Two toll lanes run in each direction between uptown Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. Between Cornelius and Exit 36 (N.C. 150), one express lane was added in each direction.
I-77 express lanes in the Lake Norman area opened in June, and since then, more than 515,000 different vehicles have taken more than 2.7 million trips on that stretch, according to I-77 Mobility Partners, the chief contractor, which built the toll lanes under a 50-year operating agreement with the state.
Faster commutes: The $647 million project started in November 2015 and stretches from N.C. 150 in Mooresville to the Brookshire Freeway/I-277 in Charlotte.
Click here to take a virtual tour of the new toll lanes.
Even before the final stretch opened, the additional lanes already were reducing commute times, according to I-77 Mobility Partners, the chief contractor. In October, average morning commute speeds increased by 15% over the same month last year, and afternoon commute speeds by 17%, the company said.
How they work: Drivers who use the toll lanes regularly may want to get a NC Quick Pass transponder. For drivers without a transponder, cameras will save an image of your license plate, and NC Quick Pass will mail a bill to the registered owner through its bill by mail program.