As the Charlotte Observer reports, the contract for the Interstate 77 toll project in northern Mecklenburg County includes a noncompete clause that would have the state pay stiff penalties to the company operating the toll road if the state follows through with its long-term plan of widening the highway. The key item:

David Hartgen, a transportation consultant and former UNC Charlotte professor, said two free lanes and one toll lane is not enough capacity to handle congestion that will build over the next five decades.

He said the noncompete clause will create intense congestion that could drive tolls even higher.

Some demographers predict the Charlotte area’s growth will mirror Atlanta over the next half-century.

“This is one of the most foolish decisions made in last 25 years,” Hartgen said. “The (transportation planning organization) is guaranteeing congestion to the northern suburbs for the next 50 years.”

Toll roads can be a great idea under the right conditions. If used improperly, they can really screw up an area, which the N.C. Department  of Transportation may have done here.