Local News

Charlotte urban loop to be built with help of private funds

Posted November 9, 2009

— A public-private partnership will help finish construction on Charlotte's Interstate 485 outer loop five years sooner than expected and will save the state $50 million to $100 million, Gov. Beverly Perdue said Monday.

Charlotte loop to be built with private funds Charlotte loop to be built with private funds

The first time a public-private model will be utilized in the state, the plan will will require contractors to design and invest in the project to allow the state to move more quickly on other transportation projects, the governor said.

Monday's announcement left State Rep. Robert Stevens, R-Wake, and others questioning why a similar plan couldn't have been utilized for construction on Interstate 540 in Wake County, where construction will be financed with tolls.

"We were told there were no other options – a couple years ago," Stevens said "Apparently there are now some other options, so that's good. It's good for Charlotte, but how about let's share the opportunity across the entire state of North Carolina."

Mark Foster, chief financial officer for the state Department of Transportation, said the size and cost of the I-540 project makes it too big for the design-build-finance plan.

For example, the 18-mile stretch of I-540 now under construction has an estimated price tag of at least $1 billion. The DOT is still in the very early planning stages for another 30-mile segment that would complete the roadway. There are not cost estimates for that part of the project.

In contrast, the 5-mile remainder of Charlotte's outer loop is estimated to cost $185 million.

"The real key is the size of the project and what money is coming in the door to pay that back," Foster said. "With the remainder of the loops, we just don't have enough state revenues or federal revenues to pay back money of that size. We have to find another way to collect money to pay back debt."

About $50 million in private financing will go to complete I-485 and build an interchange between I-485 with Interstate 85. The state will pay back the funding in 10 years, Perdue said.

The rest of the of $540 million project, which also includes widening part of Interstate 85 in Cabarrus County, will be funded with $265 million from the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund and $250 million from federal loans.

Construction could begin by mid-2010 and be complete by 2015.

"We are going to build this project without sacrificing or delaying other transportation projects in the state," Perdue said. "All other loops are important priorities in North Carolina, and we're not putting any of them on the back burner."

The 65-mile I-485 is one of several traffic loops planned in the state to help ease congestion in urban areas. Interstate 295, for example, is also under construction in Fayetteville, and Interstate 840 is under construction in Greensboro.

In recent years, funding for these projects has been controversial.

Last year, Charlotte transportation leaders asked the Obama administration to freeze federal funding for all state highway projects, claiming the state's funding formula for loop projects was unfair.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • turnpike420 Nov 11, 2009

    clarification - that's 1/2 cent more sales tax (through a vote) for raising money for Triangle transportation.

    nyxmike - you should be glad you have 1 single city center unlike the Triangle area. 70% of you in the Charlotte area voted and voted again to maintain that extra 1/2 cent sales tax for transportation. Now you have your rail LYNX ... start thinking density and mass transit, then who cares about by-passes... which the Triangle really doesn't have btw.

    David (Raleigh native)

  • turnpike420 Nov 11, 2009

    Please be sure to write your lawmakers (NC Senators and NC Representatives)! Insist they revisit the decision for 540 to be a tolled facility. Tolls will be placed on portions of the road ALREADY open and paid for by your tax dollars and other funding. But, since this is a "toll" and not a "tax" the gov't is clear of "double dipping" on that stretch of road. Find that fishy? We do!

    You know that wonderful connection at the end of HW 147 (Durham Freeway) onto TW Alexander? This project will remove that connection, forcing you off at I-40 or down into the toll facility portion of the project called the Triangle Parkway.

    Also, we are going to be asked to pay 1/2 cent more (through a vote) to raise money for transportation in the Triangle. Want to vote YES to that AND be tolled??? It makes no sense.


  • SheriffTruman Nov 11, 2009

    well, people in Raleigh and Charlotte should band together to complain, since all our tax money is spread to pay for pet projects of legislators.

    The money from certain areas should, for the most part, build roads in those areas.

    Then Charlotte and Raleigh would have half a chance to keep up even if it is harder for politicians to get good, cheap access to their land and be able to sell it.

    Oh, I am still waiting for them to pay the $100 million that was spent to build the part of 540 that will not become a toll road. I'm sure they are just finalizing the details on that one. ;)

  • nyxmike Nov 10, 2009

    All of you complaining that 540 is going to be tolled and 485 isn't... are you serious? How many free by-passes does The Triangle have compared to zero in Charlotte and the only by-passes proposed (Monroe Bypass and Garden Parkway) are going to be toll roads. Not only that, but there is no way to widen I-77 in Charlotte without putting tolls on it. Charlotte's loop was started first and should have been completed by 2003. There are only 5 miles left of this stupid loop why would you toll 5 miles? Exactly, it wouldn't make any sense. I'm sorry 540 is going to be a toll road, but at least NCDOT built your loop with 6 lanes with expansion to 8 instead of a large piece of 485 which 4 lanes that can only be expanded to 6 without re-building all the bridges. Quit complaining...

  • eglidewarrior Nov 10, 2009

    Don't forget that Gov. Easley & also Gov. Perdue aka "the Joker" have robbed the highway trust fund of BILLIONS of dollars to balance the state budget over the past 8 years. There would probably not be a need for toll roads if this money was still available. We need someone in state government who knows how to really run a business. Just yesterday it came out that MILLIONS were wasted on state cars that are not being driven. Just another example of MIS-government. During the next elections re-elect - NO ONE. Our state is being run and represented by a pack of thieves, liars and losers.

  • Capt Mercury Nov 10, 2009

    Yes, I know, interstates have have bridges and interchanges. Let's say the road ONLY costs $5000 per foot to build. Let's say there's an interchange every 2 miles. That leaves 50 million dollars per interchange. That's quite a bridge!

  • Capt Mercury Nov 10, 2009

    Can somebody explain to me why it should cost over 60 million dollars per mile to build I-540 in western Wake county? I know land is costly out there, but figure this. A 200-foot wide strip one mile long is less than 25 acres. 25 times, oh let's say $200,000 is still only 5 million dollars. That leaves 55 million to build each mile of roadway. That's $10,000 dollars per foot people! We taxpayers are getting robbed by the people who build out roads!

  • tran Nov 9, 2009

    I have yet to meet anyone in favor of toll roads, especially people from places that have toll roads.

  • Leonardo Nov 9, 2009

    This sounds like nothing more than a variation of GARVEE bonds. Using GARVEE bonds, the government can essentially take out loans against future revenue to pay for highways today. The idea is that the cost of building roads is always rising higher than inflation, so paying for highways today with tomorrows money saves money in the long run. The only difference I see here is that the state is borrowing money from private contractors instead of banks. I guess that's not a bad thing.

  • voip Nov 9, 2009

    I know these loops just encourage sprawl and discourage public transport and environmentally friendly transport. But I still like em! It's also a shame that the Charlotte loop wasn't built 3 lanes from the beginning...