I-77 Bonds, Toll Lanes and Unwilling Customers

Below is an e-mail from Vince Winegardner:

Please forward to business owner and others who need to take action – Everyone in Lake Norman!


Dear Northcross Master Association Business and Property Owners/Lake Norman Business Owner,

The I77 toll lane project continues to reveal how damaging it will be to our businesses, economy and quality of life.

The “Financial Close” is the final document required for the Cintra/NC DOT project to proceed.   That document cannot be signed until financing has been arranged.  A major portion of that financing is taxpayer backed “TIFIA” bonds and tax free “PAB” bonds.  To sell these bonds, an independent rating agency rates them.  Fitch rated these bonds at BBB- (report attached).  This is the lowest investment grade possible and just above “junk” status.  This rating is provided to the financial markets thru a major bond processing house like Goldman Sacks.  They produce a bond sales prospectus (attached DBRS flyer) which is provided to institutional investors such as pension funds, etc.  DBRS rated the bonds at BBB.  This is the lowest rating allowed by the federal government to participate in the tax payer backed “TIFIA” and Private Activity Bonds program which will fund $289 million of the project.  Keep that in mind as your read the report.  It is overly optimistic and relies heavily on NC DOT’s willingness to subsidize the private company.  If these two conditions did not exist, the bonds would not qualify for Federal backing since they would be “junk” status.

Much of the DBRS report is technical but as you read it, a clear theme emerges.  This project is high risk for the investor but the stage is set to make money from Lake Norman drivers.  The report focuses on I77 being a “choke point” and that congestion after 2035 will be bad enough in the non-tolled roads to force drivers into the tolled lanes.  The report also notes that the tolls rates have no cap.  There is a lot more that should concern those who have invested in Lake Norman.

What disturbs me is how this report supports the adverse impact which have been reported by opponents for the last several years and still political and business leaders defend it or remain silent.   Leadership of the Lake Norman and Mooresville Chambers have been privately opposed but collectively silent.  The Charlotte Chamber has been actively supporting the tolling concept as a way forward for Charlotte and the State.   This tolling agenda has a strong ally in Ned Curran.  Mr. Curran is the CEO of Bissell Corporation, Chairman of the NC DOT Transportation Board and next year’s President of the Charlotte Chamber.  I believe his support is heavily influenced by managed lane concepts that have been applied to cities like Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington DC.  A “successful” Los Angeles example earns annual toll revenue of a little over $40 million from a population that is nearly greater than all of North Carolina!  Lake Norman has about 150,000 citizens and, according to the DBRS sales brochure, Lake Norman commuters are estimated to pay $34 million in tolls in 2020!  These projects are historically overestimated for what they will generate and what benefit they bring to the community.  Regardless of the intent, these toll projects do not solve the problem of congestion.  The profit motive will ensure they make congestion worse.

Is this a done deal?  Maybe … but still there is hope to stop it.  Several local governments are waking up or at least recognizing that voters are watching.   A delay is important to allow the truth of what is happening to emerge.  That delay will also be important to the taxpayer should the lawsuit filed in January by the citizen’s group, WidenI77,  be successful later this year.  If the lawsuit is successful and the Financial Close has already been signed, the cost to exit the contract may be as much as it would cost to have solved the congestion problem without tolls!  The best case is for the Governor to stop this now before the contract is signed.

With all of the data saying this is a bad idea, surely the right thing will be done right?  There is a lot of money in this and there are powerful people who will benefit one way or the other.    The only reasonable way to stop this privatization of our roads, is for businesses and leaders to stand up and say “No!”  Do you like your elected leaders and their Party?   Tell them you will not support them in the next election if this happens to our community.  A list of elected leaders is attached along with their emails.  Let them know now that you want a real solution that reduces congestion and protects our economy.

Want to help with the legal fight?  Visit and donate!  Want to donate more than $1000 and would like a private presentation?  Contact me at[email protected].


Vince Winegardner

Northcross Master Association President

Huntersville NC

PS – There are no exits from the toll road between Westmoreland and Hambright roads – e.g. bypasses exits 23, 25, and 28. If you depend on transient traffic and they are in the toll road, it is unlikely they will figure out how to get to your business from the toll lanes.   Consider the impact you may have from the growing congestion in the general purpose lanes and secondary roads.


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