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Lake Norman Chamber Chairman speaks out on I77 Toll Lanes

Letter to the editor

As a resident of the Town of Huntersville for 16 years, I have spent enough time in I-77 traffic that I could have learned a foreign language or two!  Since 2011, I have served on the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and currently serve as Board Chair.  During these four plus years on our chamber board, I have attended countless meetings and briefings regarding transportation issues and I-77 specifically.  They have been hosted by the NCDOT, Lake Norman Transportation Commission, Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, Citizen Groups such as Widen 77, and Town Boards.  During this time my beliefs about the Managed Lane concept for widening I-77 have not waivered – I personally believe it is the wrong funding method.  Period.

My personal feelings aside, the role of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce is to represent the interests of our 1,000+ members.  Those interests are reflected by a diverse Board of Directors made up of talented business leaders from our Lake Norman region.  The Board, much like the business community that makes up our membership, is divided on this issue.  Some board members feel the managed lanes will guarantee mobility for our businesses and citizens. Others oppose this solution and feel we are best served by “General Purpose Lanes.”  The spirited discussion at the last Chamber Board of Directors meeting two weeks ago, reflected the passion of the region witnessed by letters to the editor, newspaper articles, citizen protests and resolutions recently passed by town and county boards.

As the 2015 Chairman, I believe our position on the project, best reflects the views of the Board of Directors and our membership.  Simply stated, the Chamber remains committed to the widening of I-77, and other infrastructure projects in the region, in a manner consistent with current funding methods that do not put an undue financial burden on business and residents.  It was a statement developed over months of study and examination, where every voice was heard and a consensus reached that we could all support. Our Chamber continues to monitor developments on the current proposal and we are analyzing its potential impact on our business community and our regional community.  In the meantime, we support our local elected leaders who are attempting to gather more information on this project, and hopefully shed enough light to separate the facts from the fiction.

As the Lake Norman region continues to experience growth, local and state leaders, including the chamber and other citizen advocacy groups, must work closely with NCDOT to ensure scarce resources are used wisely to benefit the region and keep Lake Norman a great place to live and work.

Mike Russell

2015 Chairman

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

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