- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Mecklenburg County is the latest local government to oppose plans to build toll lanes to widen Interstate 77 north of Charlotte.

The county commission voted 7-2 Tuesday to call on Gov. Pat McCrory and transportation officials to cancel a contract with a developer to build the toll lanes, multiple media outlets report.

The resolution also urges the governor to explore alternative ways to pay for widening the road without using tolls.

McCrory has said it’s too late to change the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners to build and operate the toll lanes. He says it would cost up to $100 million to cancel the contract.

Chairman Trevor Fuller, who voted against the resolution, said paying $100 million to get out of the contract is irresponsible.

“If you terminate this contract, then what?” he said. “You pay the $100 million, then what?”

Toll supporters have said the lanes will reduce traffic at high-travel times in a stretch from Charlotte to Mooresville.

Republican commissioner Jim Puckett said the North Carolina Department of Transportation could widen the interstate with $100 million generated from the gasoline tax, whereas the toll lane project would cost taxpayers up to $240 million.

State Department of Transportation Chief Deputy Nick Tennyson told commissioners that while taxpayers will foot an initial $95 million for the project, it includes $145 million in debt-funded toll revenue that will resurface 26 miles of lanes, replace three bridges and fund other highway projects in areas hosting the tolls.

In May, Mecklenburg County commissioners joined town officials in Cornelius, Mooresville and Davidson in a call for the state to delay the project by 90 days after opponents found a 50-year clause in the final contract. After the toll lanes were completed, DOT would have to pay the developer compensation if it builds new free lanes on the highway.

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