‘Irreparable harm’ if I-77 contract is not cancelled; legislators will seek a temporary restraining order; Governor hangs tough


Nov. 13. UPDATED. By Dave Yochum. Four North Carolina legislators have called on the governor to exercise the termination provisions in NCDOT’s I-77 contract with Cintra, a Spanish company.

They will seek a temporary restraining order to stop the project, although Sen. Jeff Tarte, one of the signatories on the letter to Gov. Pat McCrory did not identify legal counsel.

“It is time for this project to be cancelled,” said Sen. Jeff Tarte, of Cornelius. “It is time to redefine the project into several smaller projects.”

RELATED: A response from NCDOT Sec. Nick Tennyson on behalf of the Governor’s Office

12239703_10208505950914097_4986840488958242895_nThe first project should be confined to the Lake Norman area, Tarte said. Other legislators signing the letter to the governor are Sen. David L. Curtis, of Lincoln County, Rep. John Bradford, of Cornelius, and Rep. Charles Jeter, of Huntersville.

Jeter said he did not know how much the governor will speak to him after today’s letter. He did say that he expects the governor to attend a special summit on the I-77 toll issue Nov. 23.

Less than an hour after the press conference ended, the NCDOT issued a statement from NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson that roundly criticized the four legislators’ letter. (See below)

Today’s letter to the governor states: “A combination of several important facts have come to light since the contract was signed, that we believe materially breach the intent, desire and long-term expectations to move forward with this managed project.”

The four legislators called on the project to be re-ranked by the state, in terms of already-agreed upon parameters.

Mike Russell, chairman of the Lake Norman Chamber, said: “The announcement of the ceremonial groundbreaking of the I-77 toll road project will do nothing to slow the building momentum enjoyed by those opposed to the tolls coming out of last week’s election. It’s not a done deal until we lay down.”

The letter says the current toll plan calls for new lanes that are not sufficiently strong enough to support truck traffic. “In order to have these interstate highway lanes able to facilitate truck traffic at anytime after the managed lanes are built, these lanes would have to be ground to the base and completely rebuilt from scratch. This would render the over $650 million of taxpayer and equity partner investment a significant waste of money.”

Jeter, during the press conference, said political leaders need to “listen when our residents speak, and adjust when the facts change.”

He said I-77 Mobility Partners has a history of disingenuous statements, especially around yesterday’s announcement that construction starts Monday.

“It’s a little rich,” Jeter said, of I-77 Mobility Partner’s plans to move dirt in three days.

The letter said local businesses believe that the toll plan would “systematically give an advantage to certain businesses and selectively put other businesses at risk of failure. The adverse environment is created by the design that provides no ingress or egress points to access businesses at selected exits. Once the managed lanes are implemented, travelers using the toll lanes will not be able to access restaurants, gas stations and hotels at multiple exits on I-77. This is not sustainable for small business owners.”

Lake Norman Chamber Chairman Mike Russell, and other business leaders, fear the toll plan will worsen congestion by concentrating slow-moving tractor-trailers in the two existing general purpose lanes. The toll design, too, appears to prevent on-off access at Exit 28, deemed Lake Norman’s “Main Street” by the Chamber of Commerce.

The date and location had not been set as of 10 am today, Jeter said. The question is whether a summit that is still in the planning stages would provide enough political cover for the governor to red flag the Cintra deal. Jeter admitted it is unclear whether the governor will attend.

When the public hue and cry reached a crescendo in May, the NCDOT pushed the financial close a week ahead of plan.

Important legislators like NC Rep. Bill Brawley of Charlotte are still on board with the plan. He is senior chair of the House Finance Committee, which, of course, holds the purse strings to literally hundreds of projects in and around the state.

He told Business Today earlier this week that North Meck officials at one time gave thumbs up to tolls, and there is virtually no going back at this point.

Letter from NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson:

We have received the letter sent to the Governor by four state representatives about the I-­‐‑77 Express Lanes Project.

The Governor fully understands and experiences the congestion issue in the region and he welcomes constructive dialogue, viable ideas and realistic solutions.

The Governor neither requested this project nor would it be appropriate for him to cancel the contract based on a request from four representatives, without clear direction from the local elected officials who requested and approved the I-­‐‑77 Express Lanes project on behalf of the Northern Mecklenburg County towns.

In addition, the Governor does not have the authority, without legislative approval to pay the associated penalties for sudden cancellation.

It is the local elected officials, who make up the local transportation planning organization, who would need to vote to cancel the project if they now want to change direction and take those steps, with a full understanding of the penalties and other ramifications for cancellation.

It is unfortunate that content of this letter is riddled with inaccurate and false claims. NCDOT will issue a more detailed response to correct this information later today. This letter avoids recognizing and informing the public of the costly ramifications associated with cancelling the project, with no clear path on how to fund associated penalties.

At the request of Governor McCrory, NCDOT representatives look forward to presenting accurate information at the I-­‐‑77 meeting later this month and to hear new solutions from local
and state representatives. If the Metropolitan Planning Organization decides to vote to cancel the project at this point, NCDOT will work closely with the local elected officials to guide them through their required process and costly ramifications for the region.


2 Responses to “‘Irreparable harm’ if I-77 contract is not cancelled; legislators will seek a temporary restraining order; Governor hangs tough”

  1. This whole idea is crazy. I for one would not use it as I am on Social Security and can’t afford something like that. How many people will actually use it once they actually find out what it would be costing them each week. I for one try to stay off I-77 because of all the backed up traffic.

    Posted by Sandra Martin | November 13, 2015, 5:44 pm
  2. Dave Yochum, have you seen a “detailed response” from DOT with regard to
    the riddling of inaccuracies and false claims??

    “It is unfortunate that content of this letter is riddled with inaccurate and false claims. NCDOT will issue a more detailed response to correct this information later today”

    Posted by Kathy Chenette | November 13, 2015, 9:55 pm

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