What is a High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane?
HOT lanes charge motorists a toll based on traffic congestion and flow at the time drivers are using the lane. In return, traffic flow and congestion can be controlled to ensure a minimum speed of travel.

What are benefits of HOT lanes?
HOT lanes provide options for drivers while also encouraging the use of transit and carpooling. Tolls collected from HOT lanes help fund the costs of building and maintaining the road. There are HOT lanes in states including Georgia, California, and Virginia. They help stretch limited state dollars to build more roads.

What is “value pricing”?
This is the method by which toll rates are set for using HOT lanes. The toll rates vary depending on the level of congestion in the HOT lanes.

What are managed lanes?
They are highways or sets of highway lanes where access is controlled in response to real time changes in speed and congestion to improve traffic flow. They include high-occupancy toll (HOT) or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, set priced lanes or special use lanes (such as truck-or-bus only, or express).

Are tolls just another tax?
No. The toll is a user fee. Unlike a tax that applies to everyone, motorists can decide whether or not to use the HOT lane and pay the fee.  Motorists can decide if the reliability and improved mobility of a managed lane is worth the fee when compared to using the free “general purpose” highway lanes.

How do HOT lanes work?
Drivers are asked to set-up pre-paid accounts. HOT lanes use electronic toll collection systems equipped with video and transponder technology that automatically deducts the tolls from the accounts. Drivers may also have the option of receiving a bill in the mail after using the HOT lane, but at a higher toll rate.

What is a transponder?
A transponder is a radio frequency identification device about the size of a credit card that emits a signal to readers attached to overhead toll gantries that allows for automatic toll collection using a pre-paid account.

Will I need to stop at a toll gate?
There are no toll gates, so no stopping is needed, allowing traffic to remain free-flowing. 

What will the average price be to use the HOT lanes?
It will vary as the toll at a specific location at a specific moment in time is based upon the level of congestion in the HOT lanes and the average speed in those lanes. Drivers will see the posted toll rates and can decide to move onto a HOT lane or remain in the toll-free lane.

Will everyone have to pay to use the HOT lanes?
No. Emergency vehicles, eligible carpoolers, vanpools, motorcycles and public transit can use the HOT lanes toll-free. 

Why build HOT lanes?
Physical and financial constraints of the I-77 corridor demands a single long-term solution that addresses both current and future congestion as the area grows. HOT lanes provide management of a long-term congestion solution to improve traffic flow for the users.

Have general purpose lanes been considered as an alternative solution?
General purpose lanes cannot be in place until 2030 under the current funding availability. And even then, continuing to add general purpose lanes does not provide a long term solution to congestion issues. Experience has shown that congestion will in fact build up again, and future widening has physical limitations.

How much more expensive are HOT lanes than general purpose lanes?
HOT lanes may cost up to 10 percent more because of the added four-foot buffer pavement needed and the tolling equipment.
Will HOT lanes make my commute better or worse?
By adding capacity and giving drivers a choice, users should experience improved conditions, including less congestion in the general purpose lanes. When adding capacity – tolled or untolled –it has the effect of reducing the severity of congestion across all lanes of travel. HOT lanes will assure users of an uncongested option because traffic volume on those lanes is managed to achieve a minimum speed.

How have stakeholders been involved in the development of the project?
NCDOT has been working with agencies and officials in a 10-county area since 2007 on the plan for traffic congestion management along I-77 through HOT/HOV lanes.

Why build the project as a Private-Public Partnership?
DOT is able to transfer substantial risks to the private sector in the areas of design, construction, operations, maintenance, tolling and revenue, while gaining additional roadway capacity in the near-term.

What is the DOT’s financial contribution to the project?
The amount will be determined in the bidding process. Generally for every dollar DOT invests in the project the private sector partner will invest two dollars, and that rises to 3 times the DOT portion when operating and maintenance costs are included over the life of the project.

Is it true that a foreign company will own the road?
DOT retains ownership of the roadway and project, and ensures the private partner maintains performance specifications set in the contract. The DOT may impose fines and fees if the private partner deviates from those terms. DOT will also serve as the tolling authority.

During the 50-year contract term, what is the private partner’s role?
The private partner is responsible for the design, construction, finance, operations and maintenance aspect of the HOT lanes. Since it is required to meet performance specifications agreed to in the contract, it is ensured that the private partner hands the facility back to the DOT in good condition at the end of the agreement.
What prevents the private partner from making exorbitant profits?
NCDOT will negotiate a competitive rate of return in the bidding process. Revenue received above this set return is to be shared with NCDOT on an increasing scale. The more revenue the developer earns, the larger the share of that revenue goes to the state. That mitigates the possibility of exorbitant profits for the partner.

What if the partnership fails, can the contract be terminated?
Yes. NCDOT retains rights to terminate the contract if the Department determines it is in its best interest, or due to developer default or unavoidable occurrence beyond the control of either party, such a natural disaster.

What is an “unplanned revenue impacting the facility” and does NCDOT have to reimburse the private partner? 
Current agreements may provide for possible compensation to be paid to the private operator if the construction of facilities not planned when the agreement was executed results in a proven reduction in revenue for the privately operated facility. As a result, private investors take into account everything that may be included in the region’s long-term plans, whether currently funded or not, when making their traffic and revenue projections.

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