Cornelius Town Board wants ‘time-out’ for plan to widen I-77 with tolls


May 4. It looks like the residents of Cornelius have spoken and the Town Board has listened. Mayor Chuck Travis says there will be enough votes at tonight’s meeting to “call a time out” for plans to widen I-77 between Lake Norman and Charlotte.

A call for a time-out would go straight to Gov. Pat McCrory, not a bad thing for hyper-connected Cornelius which boasts both a former mayor and former commissioner in the state legislature.

An online poll on as of 5 pm showed 92 percent of 733 local voters want NCDOT and local officials to postpone the final “financial close” which is set for mid-May until a variety of questions are answered.

Chief among them is whether Gov. Pat McCrory $3 billion “Connect NC” transportation bond package could include new general purpose lanes  to relieve the bottleneck between Huntersville and Mooresville.

Under Cornelius’ form of government, the mayor only votes in the event of a tie. However, it appears the vote tonight will be unanimous.

 Cornelius Town Commissioner Dave Gilroy is expected to propose a “time-out” resolution that will be read at tonight’s Town Board meeting. The town will ask for an independent audit of the project before officials financially close on the plan late this month.

Internal communications at Cornelius Town Hall say “it appears nobody has a clear understanding” of a key component in the 50-year contract with a Spanish company. Local leaders on a state level are also expressing concerns about the $655 million plan.

The memo, published online by Business Today last week, reveals the Cintra contract limits the region’s ability to undertake north-south road improvements that could diminish its ability to collect tolls on new “Lexus Lanes” on I-77. The contract says that new roads that relieve congestion on I-77 would result in a “Compensation Event” for Cintra.

The contract was revised without the town staff knowledge, according to the memo from Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant to town commissioners and the mayor.

It says: “To refresh everyone’s memory, while contract language was being drafted, the TCC subcommittee and NCDOT/Cintra agreed that any future transportation project within the I-77 toll corridor that was listed in the CTP and LRTP (and other government approved documents) would not create a compensation event, whereby NCDOT would need to pay Cintra for the rights to construct these particular projects.  All the earlier versions of the contract maintained this language; however, unbeknownst to the TCC subcommittee, the final version of the contract contained revised language that stated that adding general purpose lanes from Exit 28 to Exit 36 would indeed qualify as a compensating event (this was the only exception listed).  The subcommittee found out after the contract was executed.”

Gilroy then sent this to commissioners, the mayor, Sen. Jeff Tarte, Bradford, town staff and the public email file:

“Gentlemen, given Andrew Grant’s revelational news below, the questions raised in the attached memo to NC’s Treasurer, and all the press out there on Cintra’s projects elsewhere in the country (link below is just one example), who will join me in voting for a Cornelius resolution to delay Financial Close for 90 days in order to enable an independent audit of NCDOT’s contract? May be purely symbolic at this point, but very, very important to be clearly on the record in my view.”

This past Friday afternoon during rush hour, between 75 and 100 anti-toll activists staged a protest on the Exit 28 bridge. The public demonstration of opposition received considerable attention from Charlotte media, both print and broadcast.

Given Cornelius’ clout in Raleigh, calling time-out may have meaning. Former Mayor Jeff Tarte is now a state senator representing the area. Former Commissioner John Bradford is now a state representative.


An online WSOC-TV poll shows 95 percent of 832 people are opposed to tolls.


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