Representatives of I-77 Mobility Partners and N.C. Turnpike Authority gave Statesville Chamber of Commerce members an update on the express lanes Thursday.
The lanes opened in November last year. Mobility Partners spokesman David Currance said 620,000 different vehicles have used the express lanes since then. A little more than half of those travelers used transponders.
Currance said the average monthly bill for people using the Interstate 77 express lanes is $4.45.
There are 11 exits and entrances that separate the express lane into sections. Each section has a different rate which is based off of time of day and current traffic. Currance said the goal is to keep the average speed in all lanes at 48 miles per hour, at the slowest.
The state uses the tolls to pay for the operation and maintenance of I-77 and pay off the $289 million the state has accrued in debt to build the express lanes. Currance said Mobility Partners has invested $250 million in the express lanes but will see returns for that investment after operations and debt are paid for.
Mobility Partners has a 50-year contract with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and provides roadside assistance for anyone who has car trouble in any lane on I-77 as well as road repair and vegetation control.
Warren Cooksey, the director of outreach for the turnpike authority, said there are no toll booths on the interstate. The authority bills travelers using the express lanes via mail afterwards or, with the help of a transponder, a driver can set up a prepaid account.
A transponder is a sticker drivers stick on their windshields.
Drivers have three options when considering transponders. Cooksey said the free transponder works for all toll lanes in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. If a driver travels to the northeast regularly, they should purchase a transponder that can also be used for most northeastern states. That transponder costs $7.
Finally, there is a transponder that costs $16.49. There is a switch on the transponder that allows the driver to demonstrate if they have two or more passengers in the car with them. Cooksey said there is also a free app that allows drivers to do the same thing.
He explained high occupancy vehicles, or cars with two or more passengers plus the driver, can use the express lanes for free as can municipal buses, motorcyclists and first responders.
Cooksey said between October 2018 and October 2019, the Monroe Expressway and the I-77 express lanes opened. In that year, toll-related transactions doubled.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.