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I-77 Express Nears 5-Year Mark: Is it Working?

| Infrastructure

Open since November 2019, I-77 Express is an $808-million investment that included the reconstruction of 26 miles of roadway along the I-77 corridor north of Charlotte.

What is it?

I-77 Express is a public-private partnership between the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and I-77 Mobility Partners. This P3 allowed the construction, along with other infrastructure improvements along the existing portion of Interstate 77, to advance significantly sooner than if they were supported through traditional funding methods – roughly 20 years ahead of schedule.

How does it work?

Charlotte-based I-77 Mobility Partners financed, developed, designed, constructed, and is now operating and maintaining the 26-mile project.  NCDOT retains ownership of the roadway and helps ensure I-77 Mobility Partners adheres to the standards of their contractual partnership.

Why a P3?

Developing this project through a public-private partnership transfers the risk of future usage of the lanes to the private sector so that if the roadway underperforms, the public is protected. The P3 model takes full advantage of the innovation and efficiency of private enterprise to reduce the use of tax dollars. Furthermore, there is an incentive for customer service: the private developer will only be successful in the long term if the project provides a safe, reliable, and valuable service to the community at a reasonable price.

Is it Working?

I-77 Express has proven P3s can be a sustainable model for infrastructure investment in North Carolina.

  • Faster speeds: The corridor was once plagued with congestion and, today, both the managed and free general-purpose lanes consistently report average speeds that are higher than before the improvements were made. 40% increase in speeds on the free general-purpose lanes since before construction began in 2015.
  • Decreased travel times: All drivers, not just those who choose to use the express lanes, have benefitted from I-77 Express. Prior to the start of construction in 2015, drivers needed about 45 minutes during the morning or evening rush hour to travel from Charlotte to Mooresville. In the free general-purpose lanes, the same trip now takes about 30 minutes.
  • Improved safety: Provided over 1,300 hours of free roadside assistance in 2023. The average response time to a stranded motorist is less than 9 minutes.
  • Community impact: Invited more than 50,000 households to participate in the Tolling Equity Program that offers free rides to low-income residents.

What’s Next?

One of the perks of the P3 is that each year, I-77 Mobility Partners invests millions of dollars in new safety equipment, such as cameras that use artificial intelligence to spot potential safety hazards. This helps them manage the corridor proactively to keep North Carolinians safe and goods moving efficiently through our state.