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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Work is expected to begin late this year on adding toll lanes on Interstate 77 through Charlotte.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says the project will widen 26 miles of one of the most congested highways in the state.

Cintra Infraestructures is the apparent low bidder to build the $655 million project that is the department's first public-private partnership project.

The state will contribute $88 million for the work. That's less than the $170 million that had originally been projected. Construction is expected to begin in December.

The project involves converting the existing high-occupancy-vehicle lanes to tolls and adding more toll lanes. Vehicles with three or more people - high occupancy vehicles - will still be able to use the toll lanes free.

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