RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Transportation announced the apparent successful bidder for its first public-private-partnership contract to improve the traffic flow along 26 miles of Interstate 77.

Such contracts leverage new funding sources to lessen the financial effect to the state and help complete projects sooner through investments by a private firm.  

Following a required bidding process, and pending final review, it appears Cintra Infraestructures, S.A. will construct the I-77 project through a joint venture with F.A. Southeast, W.C. English, and the lead design firm of The Louis Berger Group.

Cintra, a leader in managed lanes projects, estimates the total project cost at $655 million. Cintra will invest the majority of that in return for toll revenue generated from the managed lanes.

NCDOT will contribute $88 million for the project, which is much less than the $170 million it had projected.

The agreement is expected to be signed in June, with construction beginning as early as December. The project is expected to be complete in 2018.

“We are excited to take this significant step forward and address a critical need,” said NCDOT Chief Engineer Mike Holder. “Innovative funding solutions like this one are vital to keep up with growth and infrastructure needed to strengthen the economy despite declining transportation revenue from traditional sources.”

Managed lanes give drivers a choice to pay a toll to avoid waiting in traffic, while helping ease congestion on the free, general-purpose lanes for other drivers.

The proposed I-77 project includes converting existing high-occupancy-vehicle lanes. The existing HOV lanes and new lanes will become managed lanes that allow free use for carpoolers (three passengers or greater), buses and motorcyclists, while allowing other drivers to pay a toll to use them.

Tolls will vary to control the number of vehicles in the high-occupancy lanes.

The price would be higher during peak periods when demand is greater, and lower during less congested periods. Drivers can still use free, general-purpose lanes to avoid paying a toll.

The project will add capacity to I-77 between Brookshire Freeway (Exit 11) in Charlotte and N.C. 150 (Exit 36) in Iredell County.