I-77 contract won’t survive the ‘chorus of discontent’


At the June 22, 2015 board of directors meeting, the Lake Norman Chamber joined the fight against the Cintra contract and the concept of tolling I77 at Lake Norman. I, along with many on the chamber board, admitted our earlier support of accepting tolling or nothing at all was short-sighted and a mistake.  Leadership is owning mistakes when you make them, and charting a new course when required.

The Cintra contract is a really bad deal, not just for our region, but ultimately for North Carolina. NCDOT is spending $246 million and giving the citizens tolls for 50 years when it can solve the real problem with about $240 million to $250 million, per Bobby Lewis, the former NCDOT chief of staff.

This plan spends taxpayer money without solving the real problem, which is congestion relief.  No economic impact study was undertaken as part of this project. NCDOT stated they were in the road-building business, not the economic development business, but this has a profound impact on our business development and ultimately it impacts the rest of our state as well.

Our Lake Norman region stands to suffer $10 billion to $20 billion in productivity losses as estimated by David Hartgen, a UNC-Charlotte transportation professor. The first dollar of principal is not repaid until 2033 after paying tolls for 15 years. In addition, while we deeply appreciate foreign investment in the region, sending $4 billion of local toll revenue over 50 years to Spain should make state leaders ask this question: “Is that fiscally responsible when those same dollars could be used here to tackle transportation improvements over the next five decades?”

Some officials in Charlotte state the I-77 toll lane project will be a shining example of a P3 (Public Private Partnership) project and an example of how North Carolina will use for other P3 projects in our state.  Our Chamber of Commerce disagrees.

It will be a shotgun marriage where the public does not want to be a “partner” and this will end in a bitter, ugly divorce costing this state upwards of $750 million to $1.5 billion to get out of this project later—an expensive experiment and embarrassment to our state but a critical hardship to our communities and businesses in the Lake region.

A 32,500-acre body of water—Lake Norman—simply limits a P3 Managed Lanes approach to I-77.

It has been said this is what we asked for. Well, no, we didn’t.  It was what we were told we could have or nothing at all for 20 years and this plan just does not work.

It is bad for our citizens, bad for our communities and bad for commerce. While key elected leaders in Raleigh have refused to be deterred by the thousands of emails, phone calls, and visits, they have not been able to silence critics of the contract. They will not. The citizens, businesses and voters of Lake Norman will continue to fight this assault on our economy and quality of life until the contract with Cintra is terminated.

I am reminded of the saying, “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins; not through strength, but through perseverance.”

What started as lonely voices of opposition have become a chorus of discontent. A ripple which began here at Lake Norman is already creating a wave of change across this state. This is a fight we have been told we cannot win, but it is one we dare not lose.


Bill Russell
President and CEO

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce


5 Responses to “I-77 contract won’t survive the ‘chorus of discontent’”

  1. Put quite well. Thank you. What has not been discussed is the role that the parent company has played in getting this monstrosity approved to begin with. They routinely bribe public officials – there is a handbook written in Europe describing the process and using Ferrovial as a prime example of what they do. Getting approval of this project here, having the former Secretary Tata step down suddenly when these issues began to take on life, and the moving up of the construction schedule when combined all smell of something pretty bad. Maybe it is time for cash flow audits of everyone involved to see who is living well beyond their means….The Feds are annoyed with NC now – this might be an excellent time to ask them to take a look under the hood.

    Posted by Craig Northacker | July 11, 2016, 4:47 pm
  2. The Feds aren’t looking under the hood when our very own NC State Senator Thom Tillis (who is from Cornelius) -is in Washington stopping any type of reviews under any hoods…

    Posted by Pattie | July 12, 2016, 3:21 am
  3. The first line should read “June 22, 2016”, yes?

    Posted by Melissa | July 14, 2016, 12:48 pm
  4. This article is almost funny, excpet that Thom Tillis, his wife, and Gov McCrony, stand to make millions in donations for the puppet masters behind this plan. Throw in the most corrupt, Nambla Ned Curran, and Bissell Company, and the people of NC have met their match.
    Did you see how McCrony actually ran off, ran away, like a scared sissy, when he was asked a question about the role his former staff members played in getting this contract pushed through?
    You muppets deserve every once of pain extracted from this process.
    The only good news in this process is at least most blacks and Mexicans won’t be able to afford this toll, making these lanes the safest in the country. Lexus lanes for the rich, paid for by the taxpayers, as it should be.

    Posted by ned | July 15, 2016, 2:46 am

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