North Carolina judge denies I-77 tolling opposition group's claim of unconstitutionality

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 1/14/2016

Plans for toll lanes along Interstate 77 in North Carolina recently scored a victory in court. A superior court judge ruled against an opposition group who tried to put a stop to tolling by claiming it was unconstitutional.

Widen I-77, a nonprofit citizens group opposed to tolling, alleges that the General Assembly unconstitutionally delegated authority to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to set toll rates without adequate standards or safeguards, according to court documents. The group also claims NCDOT’s contract with Mobility Partners is also unconstitutional.

On Jan. 8, Judge Osmond Smith III denied the group’s Motion for Summary Judgment, claiming it is not up to a court to decide whether or not a project is good or bad, according to Widen I-77’s website. Judge Smith stated such decisions are up to the legislative and political arena, rather than judicial.

According to an NCDOT press release, the judge’s ruling suggested Widen I-77’s case focused more on opinion than a legitimate legal issue. Judge Smith also struck down a motion from the opposition last March.

NCDOT will now allow local officials to continue with the tolling plan or vote for an alternative.

Widen I-77’s strategy has now shifted from the courts to the political stage. The next political step after the court’s decision occurred with the Charlotte City Council on Jan. 11, where a vote on the tolling plan was slated to take place. The city council voted 7-4 to affirm managed lanes as a potential plan, but decided to withhold any position on current I-77 tolling contract.

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