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Anti-toll group hires attorney, will seek injunction to fight ‘Lexus Lanes’

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By Dave Yochum

The Widen I-77 anti- group is apparently ready to throw a serious legal road block in front of NCDOT plans to use toll lanes to widen I-77 between Charlotte and Lake Norman. At a news conference tomorrow, Widen I-77 will announce the name of the law firm that will file a preliminary injunction to keep Cintra, a Spanish company, from executing a 50-year contract to build and operate private managed toll lanes.

Elected officials in Cornelius would not comment on the record. Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy and Huntersville Commissioner Danny Phillips have expressed strong opposition to the plan for toll lanes. And none other than Sen. Jeff Tarte, an early advocate, seems to be having second thoughts.

In a post on the “Exit 28 Ridiculousness” Facebook page about a trip from North Lake Mall to Exit 28 that took Tarte “an hour and one half with no accidents,” the former mayor of Cornelius said he “feels like the state of North Carolina does not care about us. This is one of two principal north-south transportation corridors for trucking. Based upon what I understand, Managed Lanes cannot and likely will not solve this problem.”

Town officials who’ve towed the party line during the I-77 debacle—which saw former N.C. Rep. John Rhodes protesting on West Catawba—were disappointed by Tarte’s statement.

Tarte went on to point out that an “NCDOT report from 1990 that states I-77 from I-40 to the South Carolina border should be widened to four general purpose lanes in both directions (for a total of 8 lanes) has been forgotten.” He said that was disheartening.

Meanwhile, the bonds that would be used to finance the project appear to be up in the air. A source told Cornelius Today that certain parameters have not been met, throwing doubt on the financial viability of the plan for managed lanes.

The group will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit at the Arnold & Smith law firm in Charlotte.

There are serious politics involved, if not outright grudge matches. Widen I-77’s attorney, Matt Arnold, ran unsuccessfully in the May primary last year against NC Sen. Bob Rucho. The politicians who have stuck by the plan to widen 77 with tolls say it’s the only way to improve the road.
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<div>”As much as they will tell you differently, we will have flying cars before I-77 is widened if they are successful in their legal action. The DOT will happily take their money and go build roads somewhere else,” one source said.</div>
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<div>Backers of the public-private partnership say the bonus allocation of road improvement funds would also go away which means that the needed improvements on secondary roads will disappear.</div>
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<div>”The upshot is the economic viability and quality of life in North Mecklenburg are at stake as these people play Russian roulette with our future. They can make this project go away but they…can’t make a new one come in its place.”</div>
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