- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A citizens group has filed a complaint to stop the creation of toll lanes on Interstate 77 in the Charlotte area.

The group Widen I-77 filed the complaint Tuesday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. They contend the proposal would violate state law by converting a stretch of an existing general purpose lane to a toll lane.

The group said such a project would be legal only if a new lane was added between Charlotte and Mooresville for each converted lane.

Widen I-77 wants preliminary and permanent injunctions to block the toll project.

Widen I-77 member Vince Winegardner told local media outlets that the privatization of public infrastructure is unconstitutional.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation and a group supporting the project, I-77 Mobility Partners LLC, would not talk about the litigation. I-77 Mobility Partners is a subsidiary of the contractor for the toll road project, Cintra US.

But the DOT did issue a statement on the project, saying it will provide “a long-term solution to one of the most congested roadways in our state.”

Drivers would be able to use the general purpose lanes for free, use the new express lanes for free with three or more people in a vehicle, or pay the toll if there were fewer than three people, DOT said.

State officials have said North Carolina cannot afford to widen the road itself, and toll lanes are the best way to expand the road quickly.

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