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After toll summit, Cornelius, Davidson mayors outline success of managed lanes in Texas

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Nov. 24. NC Rep. Charles Jeter will file a bill in the legislature that would cut Charlotte’s virtually insurmountable 46 percent weighted vote on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Organization to no more than 37.5 percent.

TRAVIS

TRAVIS

Meanwhile, after a fact-finding trip to visit managed lane projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the mayors of Cornelius and Davidson said chamber officials there were “astounded to learn that businesses in our community would object to managed lanes, although they experienced some residents with anti-tolling positions based on concerns of double taxation, ‘Lexus Lanes’ concerns, regressive actions, etc.”

 A press statement from mayors John Woods of Davidson and Chuck Travis of Cornelius said that Dallas Chamber officials “also predicted that large employers exploring our market would turn away if the region didn’t offer transportation reliability to meet travel time expectations.  They emphasized that they compete with the Charlotte region and this is a clear disadvantage to even retaining our existing large employers.”

RELATED: Mayor Woods and Travis’ Press Statement

Travis is suggesting that NCDOT investigate allowing large trucks in 26 miles of new I-77 toll lanes.

Members of the business community, however, say that’s a material change in the contract—it has to do with the thinner, cheaper pavement on the new toll lanes not being thick enough for trucks—and in all fairness the entire $650 million project should be rebid.

The business community is sticking to its strategy of canceling the contract, although there’s not outright opposition to tolls and managed lanes.

The strategy has been laid out by local legislators and members of the I-77 Business Plan, an anti-toll leadership group that has the blessings of the Lake Norman Chamber.

On the other side, of course, is Gov Pat McCrory and the NCDOT. Both are standing by the deal the state inked with Cintra, a unit of Ferrovial in Spain. NC Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson practiced the art of tautology and contradiction at the summit.

At one point he said Gov. Pat McCrory “wants to hear from the body representing the entire region,” namely the CRTPO—hence the massive effort to unseat Huntersville Commissioner Sarah McAulay, the current chairwoman.

But Tennyson also said a deliberative body could not make a decision to kill the toll plan anytime soon, nor would the NCDOT take stock in a quick decision made by a newly constituted CRTPO. Ned Curran, the chairman of the NCDOT and the incoming chairman of the Charlotte Chamber, would not even concede that the 900-page, 50-year contract between NCDOT and Cintra. “No one said this contract was flawed,” Curran said, after people like John Hettwer, a former Lake Norman Chamber chairman, said the toll plan “is a bad plan and puts our entire community at risk.”

He said “businesses and residents are already leaving Lake Norman due to traffic congestion and diminishing quality of life. It is being pressed upon us by others who do not even live here.”

HETTWER

HETTWER

Hettwer, the owner of Payroll Plus, said the population has grown on the order of 500 percent in the last 25 years, yet there are no new north-south roads between Charlotte and Lake Norman.

“At the end of the day, we’re fighting for our community…25 years of paying motor vehicle fees? And now we get a plan and it has tolls?” Hettwer said.

Curran, however, emphasized that the new toll lanes would be up and running in January of 2019, providing congestion relief.

Jeter moderated the three-hour summit meeting yesterday at Cornelius Town Hall, that was apparently boycotted by Charlotte officials including Vi Lyles, the councilwoman who has that powerful 46 percent vote, and newly electeed Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

TARTE

TARTE

Both Jeter and  NC Sen. Jeff Tarte, an outspoken opponent of the toll plan, say the governor is apparently shutting down his communications with them.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, a long-established leader of the anti-toll movement, said government “makes great big mistakes.” Decisions should be made based on whether outcomes are legal, fair and consistent. “Is it fair? Absolutely not. We are the only communities in North Carolina handing over our rights of way. Is it consistent, absolutely not. This is a case of cock, fire and aim. not cock aim and fire.” “The smartest thing as a businessman is to admit you made a mistake,” Puckett said. “Let’s go back and cancel this.”

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