LIVE COVERAGE 5:45 PM May 1. By Michael Mezquida. Scores of protesters are gathered on the Catawba Bridge over I-77 to show there disdain for the proposed toll lanes that a Spanish company with be in charge of running.
“People are moving here, so we have to plan ahead for that. Not react after they get here,” said Kathy Butterfield, one of the protesters on the bridge. “This is an unproven way to solve the problem.”
With increasing congestion on I-77, NCDOT plans a 26-mile project that that would offer drivers the opportunity to pay fees to use express lanes on the interstate. The project has been given to a Spanish corporation, Cintra. Supporters of the group “Widen I-77” as well as other protesters on the bridge want the interstate widened with general purpose lane, not toll lanes installed for those who are willing to pay for a higher speed lane.
Vince Winegardner, a board member of the group Widen I-77 suggested that the traffic is not nearly as bad as the DOT says it is. “We already spend $18 million a year in user fees in the form of gas taxes between I-85 and Mooresville. All we’re asking for is to put our money into our roads for seven or eight years and widen it and then they can continue taking our money and spend it elsewhere.”
Widen I-77’s lawsuit in January was unsuccessful in preventing the project from moving forward. The DOT
has promised $150 million in bonus money in exchange for putting in such toll lanes on I-77.