- Associated Press - Saturday, January 9, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The proposed toll lanes for Interstate 77 north of Charlotte are constitutional, a judge ruled Friday.

Local media outlets report Judge W. Osmond Smith issued the ruling Friday following two hours of arguments during a hearing.

Widen I-77, the group opposing the project had wanted to postpone the hearing to wait for the Charlotte City Council to vote on the project. The council is scheduled to vote on Monday.

Matthew Arnold, an attorney for Widen I-77, said the state couldn’t legally hand over the power of tolling the express lanes to a private developer. They said the developer, I-77 Mobility Partners, could theoretically make a toll $1,000.

Mitchell Karlan, an attorney for I-77 Mobility Partners, used a hypothetical situation in which the government might partner with the Carolina Panthers to build a new football stadium. Even though the stadium would have been funded with public money, Karlan asked whether the government would control all aspects of the stadium’s operation.

Kurt Naas, a spokesperson for Widen I-77, said he was disappointed. But he said his group would focus on Monday’s vote, in which Charlotte city council members will vote up or down on the I-77 toll lanes.

The Charlotte Observer reported (https://bit.ly/1ZSrzcz) that nine area lawmakers asked Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the city council to oppose the project included in the area transportation plan.

Gov. Pat McCrory last year asked the regional transportation agency to vote on the proposal again, either to affirm it or come up with a new transportation plan with viable options. The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization is scheduled to vote on the plan on Jan. 20.


This story corrects details on Gov. McCrory in final paragraph


Information from: The Charlotte Observer, https://www.charlotteobserver.com

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