Business

Toll lanes are likely to help interstate commerce in SC

By Dave Vieser. While much of the discussion concerning the I-77 toll lanes has been concentrated on the impact on residents and commuters, they will have a profoundly positive impact on trucking between Charleston and Greenville, SC.

South Carolina is already stepping up to the plate, says Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett. “South Carolina is investing hundreds of millions in the I-26 corridor from the port in Charleston to Greenville, SC,” he said.

A business owner himself, Puckett says Greenville will become the “next great southern logistics hub as freight moves unencumbered” from the port to Greenville and Atlanta, and points north via I-75.

“If I-77 continues under the current plan, South Carolina will capture billions in economic development lost from North Carolina,” Puckett said.

A clear freight route from the Port of Charleston can carry more raw materials and finished goods for export.

“North Carolina continues to build a toll road that has in its design a 50-year logistics bottleneck across Lake Norman thus crippling the opportunity for manufacturing and logistic growth for the next five decades,” Puckett says.

“North Carolina continues to build a toll road that has in its design a 50-year logistics bottleneck across Lake Norman thus crippling the opportunity for manufacturing and logistic growth for the next five decades,” -Jim Puckett, Mecklenburg County Commissioner

The next great manufacturing corridor will grow along I-26 anchored on the eastern end with Boeing and Volvo and BMW in the west, he said.

“If I-77 continues under the current plan SC will capture billions in economic development lost from North Carolina,” Puckett said.

Pro-toll lane politicians like Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis have argued that anything is better than nothing when it comes to widening I-77. He, along with Davidson Mayor John Woods, have blessed what have been dubbed “Lexus Lanes,” partly because trucks will not be allowed in the toll lanes here.

Instead, they will be confined to the two general purpose lanes just as they are now. This will do nothing to alleviate congestion in the general purpose lanes between Lake Norman and Charlotte, Puckett said.

Allowing trucks in the toll lanes is a concept which has caught on in at least one adjacent state. Virginia’s contract with Ferrovial for toll lanes on I-66 between the Capital Beltway and Gainesville, Va., allows trucks to use the toll lanes.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne says trucks will be required to pay at least three times the toll other drivers are paying at a given time. Virginia officials believe that time-sensitive deliveries could convince truckers to pay the extra money and use the toll lanes. This, in turn, would create less congestion on the general purpose lanes.

Mercator Advisors is doing an independent examination of the I77 toll lane contract for the state NCDOT. “The contract does not allow tractor-trailers in the express lanes. However, this is one of the comments we have received from the public that will be included in the ongoing review of the contract,” said NCDOT spokeswoman Carly Olexik.

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