NCDOT seeks feedback on 50-year Cintra contract


Feb. 19By Dave Vieser. It looks like the NCDOT is suddenly paying attention to strenuous objections from the municipalities and governments that will be directly affected by the $650 million plan to widen I-77 with toll lanes between Charlotte and Lake Norman. In letters sent Feb. 17 to all the members of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, NCDOT Secretary Nicholas J. Tennyson asked for suggestions by March 14.

Nick Tennyson


The letter said: “We may not be able to satisfy every issue raised, but we want to make certain we are identifying all the potential points of concern. We recognize there are aspects of this project for which additional review may yield a better outcome.” To read Nick Tennyson’s full letter, click here.

Interestingly, in January, NCDOT attorneys said people against the 50-year contract with a Spanish company were “a group of disgruntled individuals.”

Of course, it’s an election year, and Tennyson’s boss, Gov. Pat McCrory, faces a formidable opponent not just in the general election—NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat—but the Republican primary next month. Mooresville resident Robert Brawley is opposing him. Cornelius resident Dee Gilroy, one of the leaders of the toll opposition, is hosting a fundraiser March 2 for Brawley.

Changing the contract triggers the need to rebid the entire job, according Kurt Naas, head of the WidenI77 citizen’s advocacy group which fought the project in state court.

“Under North Carolina law, if a material change is made to a contract with the state, it must be rebid.  Wideni77 would be prepared to argue such in court,” he said. Mecklenburg County Commissioners Pat Cotham and Jim Puckett say contract changes of this magnitude require scrapping this contract and rebidding the project.

“Perhaps there is a subtle shift underway in trying to make the project better” said Bill Thunberg, Executive Director of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission. “We’ll see.”

Cornelius Commissioner Woody Washam, who also serves on the LNTC suggested that “maybe the NCDOT is finally acknowledging that the contract is problematic and they will finally pay attention to our board and citizens.” He said the Cornelius Town Board and staff will be working over the next few days to provide direct and specific feedback about the project and the contract.


14 Responses to “NCDOT seeks feedback on 50-year Cintra contract”

  1. After more hearings and meetings than we can count, and over 300 hours of “our feedback” complete with a lawsuit, real facts (not Tennyson’s fiction), investigations of I-77 Mobility Partners and its parent company in Spain for its criminal acts, , speaking to the bidders who dropped out, reviewing the NC Construction Manual and citing the bidding process where it ignored the manual, seeing where the “Cintra” bridge they just built in Canada collapsed/buckled/unusable (and where “Cintra” will charge Canada to rebuild it-no warranty), showing that you cannot sue I-77 Mobility Partners since they are just a cover LLC created in Delaware and it is iimpossible to sue Cintra Ferrovial in Spain for work not completed, substandard. That Cintra went bankrupt in EVERY US STATE it has toll roads in – well, not bankrupt, but bankrupted the state and ruins its bond rating. And showing the friendships between those state governors and the Cintra executives they will still not listen. In VA, the governor went to jail and then the contract was cancelled. PENALTY FOR CANCELLING? It is not spelled out in the contract and the “auditor” who came up with the changing dollar amount works for, NCDOT and is not a unbiased third party. The penalty is a threat, NCDOT threatened the city of Charlotte with taking away the airport and their water system is they didn’t vote for the tolls. So this is just spin to make you think, “see we care.”

    Posted by Reta Berman | February 19, 2016, 3:18 pm
  2. This is a very bad contract for the Lake Norman Area. And for the whole state of North Carolina with other road projects with this company CINTRA ! With all you see and read in the news. My pa says; if you lied with dogs with fleas you wake up with fleas, Why in the world would want to go and lied with this company ! Do The Right Thing And Stop This Contact..NO TOLLS ON I-77

    Posted by Brian Stack | February 19, 2016, 4:19 pm
  3. Please look into this – They continue to say the toll lanes will be free to carpoolers yet we will need to pay a monthly fee for the transponder. And possibly an inactive fee if it is not used. How is that FREE? This is a bad deal for the LKN region. Just cancel the contract.

    Posted by Sheila H | February 19, 2016, 4:48 pm
  4. The Contract can be fixed in one minute by Pat McCrory. Cancel the contract with a stroke of a pen, save the state Billions and prevent the economic disaster that will ensue if he lets it continue.

    Posted by John R McAlpine V Mac | February 19, 2016, 5:37 pm
  5. Like many of my neighbors in the Lake Norman area, I agree that something must be done to increase capacity on I77. While I’m not a big fan of tolls (who is, anyway?), I do understand that infrastructure comes at a price. In this case, the price is approximately $650M. What I don’t understand is how a contract can be negotiated when the bidding pool was so small? That gave NCDOT no leverage to lower the cost or time Cintra has to manage the project. From Cintra’s perspective, how can they lose? The put a portion of the money up front (remember that the state is paying 1/3 of the cost). They get to collect unregulated tolls for 50 years, which will no doubt offer a considerable return on their shareholder’s investment. However, if they don’t get that return, the state of NC is liable for the difference. My point is that Cintra can’t lose. That being the case…why doesn’t the state simply own the contract themselves? It seems like a win-win scenario…and keeps the revenue here instead of going abroad. That additional revenue can go toward other local infrastructure projects and the win-win goes to the citizens of NC.

    Posted by Anthony L | February 19, 2016, 5:46 pm
  6. This is crazy to see the action and and attention they are taking after the damage has been done by agreeing to the contract. Now they decide to look at why it may have been a bad idea…..just bad government.

    Posted by John DiFiore | February 19, 2016, 8:07 pm
  7. Without all the “fly-overs needed to facilitate this awefull toll, they wouldn’t have had to clear cut all the median trees. Now the noise and pollution factor will increase dramatically! It is sickening and I can’t believe the EPA would approve.

    Posted by Catherine Wright | February 20, 2016, 5:24 am
  8. This contract is BAD-bad for NC, bad for LKN and bad for me! This contract needs to be cancelled immediately and replaced with GP lanes. The bridge to the outer banks is being built toll free, the road to the Zoo is toll free, road in Ashville-toll free, I85 expanded again toll free, etc., etc., etc. The government has a surplus, can purchase bonds, etc. so they certainly have the money. Something is rotten at NCDOT & in Raleigh! This contract will have to be cancelled or McCrory will lose the election and there will be major changes at NCDOT. Why are they insisting that we do business with a corrupt foreign company where for the NEXT 50 YEARS our toll money will go to Spain to grow their economy? The only change I want to see is the cancellation of this terrible contract (good for CINTRA bad for NC)!

    Posted by Jane Tarney | February 20, 2016, 8:31 am
  9. Possibly one of the most ridiculous things for North Carolina’s NCDOT to do. The contract is absolutely absurd and there is no reason to be doing this. We have issues from Huntersville to Mooresville. This is where we needed one extra lane. We do not need a toll lane here, just an extra lane so traffic can move along. People who live in the 5 towns will have to rethink where they live and work. This is a poor idea.

    Posted by jodi zanolini | February 20, 2016, 2:16 pm
  10. The NCDOT, the CRTPO and the governor have been ignoring feedback for years. Concerns have been communicated repeatedly via email and in person at meetings (when allowed to speak). Diane Gilroy, who has done the most incredible research on Cintra, put it directly into the governor’s hands and was ignored. 11,000 people signed a petition to stop this, that too was ignored. The mere fact that the plan is for NC taxpayers to spend 1/3 of $655M in order to build wildly expensive toll lanes, when they could have spent $100M to actually build what was needed as general purpose lanes is illogical. The NCDOT is spending much more than what is necessary in order to provide nothing for the average NC driver, who by the way, is footing the bill. And then when all is said and done NC taxpayers will be stuck with substandard roadway that will most likely need to be dug up when the toll plan fails. Oh, and all of the money spent will not relieve congestion, because relieving congestion hurts the revenue for the toll lanes. There are no positives in this plan, and damaging the economy on such a large scale will not only hurt all of Mecklenburg county, but it’s going to hurt all of NC.

    Posted by Phil | February 20, 2016, 6:17 pm
  11. Has anyone spoken on the damage this construction is doing to our cars. I was told by a mechanic it is wearing out your tires. My entire car shakes with these cracks in the lanes. Try being next to a tanker truck goin g65 with these cement baracades. I cannot be the only one that has noticed this.

    Posted by Sue | February 21, 2016, 8:15 pm
  12. FCPA – Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – taking Cintra private while being owned by Ferravio is a stepped transaction as contemplated under the FCPA. There is no way we should be allowing this contract with a criminal enterprise. The answer to the objections by the AG office stated that the organization was convicted of a crime – that no executives were convicted. Double talk – the company was convicted of a felony and paid a $ 770 million fine, so they should be disallowed by law from doing business here as a convicted criminal enterprise. The penalties for canceling are based on lost toll revenue – which they can not demonstrate because their other two projects in the US are in bankruptcy or in technical default. Fitch discounted their numbers as too rosy, and there is no oversight of the level of toll. Giving a foreign entity control of out national highway system under any guise is a no-brainer to begin with. And the gent behind it stepped down pretty suddenly last year. Anyone who has driven through the NYC area knows how miserable tolls are, and the toll authorities. The Agencies running them historically are known for bad business and extravagant contracts. Having a toll lane with no access for each exit is absurd – and making that happen will only screw traffic up even more. The answer for traffic congestion, especially in a major metropolitan area that Charlotte has become, is mass transit. If I know I can take a train to Charlotte for a few bucks I do not have to worry about traffic, parking, or driving in lousy weather. Using modern technology such as mag-lev trains will generate electricity which in turn negates the need for Duke to build more power plants. Instead, their investment into power production mass transit reduces the public capital responsibility, and the production of electricity helps mitigate ongoing operational expenses. Let’s do this while Secretary Foxx is still in DC – and not reward a corrupt Spanish owned company to our rather extraordinary deficit.

    Posted by Craig Northacker | February 22, 2016, 8:36 pm
  13. I am done being angry about this. I have realized that soon, there will be no reason for me to ever go to Charlotte, so I will not be impacted. . I am however disappointed that the local elected officials have not carried out the wish of their constituency. At the national level, it brought us Donald Trump. One would think that if this contract was favored by a majority, I would have run into one person in the past year who was for the toll road. Certainly defies the odds, and points to the fact that the deciding empty suits had an agenda that was different than their constituency. I expect the investigations will start within a year, and as some officials look at prison time, the project will be stopped. there will be no cancellation fee. If I was in charge, they would pay us for breach of contract. I have a few comments, one of which is positive.for the residents just North of the 77 bankers lane. But first, I have to wonder what these people were thinking when they thought it was a good idea to agree to NO improvements to 115 and 21 for the 50 years. That’s 1966 until now. How can anyone impact thousands of residents and businesses along two highways by agreeing to basically have them become choke points for 48 years. And the reason? Well if we improve 21 and 115, that might relieve some congestion on I77, and that certainly is not right. We wouldn’t want to impact our new Spanish friends business. ?? On the positive side for North of Meck county, here is what will happen if the toll road goes through. Charlotte will die. It will become a small Detroit. Banks will move. No new industry will come in. Existing industry will move to locations where they can get workers, without them having to spend 2.5 hours a day on a clogged highway. Interstate traffic will increase. The root cause of the i77 congestion is the ratio of entrances and exit per mile. Eleven in a 20 mile stretch is the death of a two lane Interstate. Two lane interstates can only withstand one exit// entrance every 4 miles. Since we can’t take out the exits, widening the road (not creating a fast lane for the top 1%) is the answer. But business will flourish just North of the toll road. Hopefully the crew that dreamed up this last fiasco is on hiatus spending their liras, and we have new folks in place. A simple access / frontage road alongside the highway with occasional access to i77 (like every four miles) would withstand tons of industry and still allow i77 to work as a two lane interstate highway. Companies today want productivity improvement. Time is everything. Having your workers fuming on a highway every day is a negative impact to your business. Lastly, i would like to ask if anyone knows the width size of the median strip between the 77 north and southbound lane, at the three points where it crosses water.. Every time I drive by there, I swear there is enough room for a lane going each way. Yes, there would likely be jersey barriers or something for the 200 yard stretch, but – has anyone seen the barriers where they are starting the construction..miles of it. How can that be okay I’m sure we could learn to navigate 200 yards with jersey barriers I hope this will be a lesson to future politicians. Oh, and for those who drove this project through, I hope to someday see you on the side of i77, in orange jump suits . Ole

    Posted by Terry Cormier | February 25, 2016, 2:27 am
  14. Great comment. Two observations – major metropolitan areas need mass transit to contain and grow – and that would reduce an enormous amount of vehicular traffic. With respect to your observations on contained roads going over water with limited room to expand without massive construction – any time an accident occurs it will shut down traffic completely. Good luck to us! Maybe the Governor can use his enthusiasm to undermine the LGBT community to instead do the right thing on this massive boondoggle and leave the GLBT community alone. Moralizing as to gender issues subverts civil rights as adjudicated by Federal law. Allowing the construction to go on has not been explored under the Foreign Corrupt Pratices Act – and since the legal beagles in Raleigh noted there were no personal convictions for the $ 770 million public corruption fine, then they should also understand that corporations have been recognized as having human rights, and if a corporation is convicted for a felony, you now have a convicted felon inflicting the results of criminal activities on the US and creating failed projects at our combined expense. Fruit of the vine, anyone?

    Posted by Craig Northacker | February 25, 2016, 3:52 pm

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