Commissioner Puckett throws cold water on aging I-77 culverts


Aug. 24. By Dave Vieser. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett has given NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson and Attorney General Roy Cooper a heads up around the culverts that connect Lake Norman with Lake Davidson and Lake Cornelius.

Writes Puckett: The culverts could fail anywhere from 25 years from now to 50 years from now. The NCDOT-Cintra contract has a 50-year term.

“This means they could potentially approach failure midway through the fifty-year contract with Cintra,” Puckett writes.

In a letter to the officials dated Aug. 23, Puckett asks who would be responsible for performing and paying for new culverts should they fail during the contract.

Nick Tennyson


Tennyson responded to Puckett, the North Mecklenburg representative on the County Commission, this way: “I’ll ask appropriate staff to review the hypothetical questions posted in this message and provide a response to you as we are able to do so.” In spite of the classic bureaucratic non-response, America’s infrastructure is falling apart. Highways and bridges built during and after the Eisenhower years are at or near the end of their useful life.

The Lake Norman Marine Commission says the existing culverts have an estimated life span of 75 to 100 years. They were installed when the Catawba River was dammed 50 years ago.

Puckett’s correspondence is interesting in an election year: He wants information from both Tennyson, who works for incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, and from Roy Cooper, who is running against him.

“My many years of dealing with contractors and the government have taught me that unless the specifics are clearly laid out ahead of time and agreed to by all concerned the public pays the price,” Puckett writes. “I am writing on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of citizens I represent and the millions that will travel across these culverts in the next few decades. Just who will be responsible for replacing and paying for the culvert replacement should they need replacing during the current contract timeframe?”

He also asked whether the state requires any bonding to ensure that funds are available should this safety matter arise. “What is the written and verified plan should the test and/or inspections determine replacement is needed?”

“And, if the State is responsible, will this disruption trigger a ‘compensation event’ that would require NC to pay Cintra for lost revenue due to the construction,” Puckett asked.

Puckett’s letter requests that someone from the NCDOT and/or the attorney general’s office “please let us know how this situation will be handled?”

Lake Davidson straddles the Mecklenburg/Iredell county line along the I77 corridor and is approximately 341 acres. It is in the Catawba-Wateree watershed and is a part of Lake Norman via a culvert below I77. Lake Norman totals approximately 32,475 acres. Lake Cornelius lies to the south of Lake Davidson and is approximately 125 acres.


5 Responses to “Commissioner Puckett throws cold water on aging I-77 culverts”

  1. Well done. Excellent foresight, Jim Puckett, and great wisdom in asking for everything in writing.

    Posted by Craig Northacker | August 24, 2016, 1:34 pm
  2. It is a moot point. Cintra will have looted the money and will be long gone by the time any liabilities come due. We will be left holding a bag of substandard construction and over due maintenance. That will be the legacy of McCrory’s single term as governor.

    Posted by Rick Monroe | August 25, 2016, 10:03 am
  3. In reviewing the FERC permit this summer, LNMC asked NCDOT about the integrity of the i77 bridges and causeways. So NCDOT did a cursory inspection on July 18, 2016 and told LNMC the culverts were fine and thereby pursuaded LNMC to approve the FERC permit.

    But all 3 culverts are questionable as their cursory inspection revealed. NCDOT’s own language on their own report. There needs to be a comprehensive inspection of the culverts using either coring or preferably GPR Ground Penetrating Radar to get the true picture of just how bad they are.

    Why would NCDOT promote construction that adds 50% extra weight to the causeways when they just rated them POOR? Until such time that thorough testing has been done and evaluated, there should be no further work allowed on the causeways for safety reasons.

    JSYK: These culverts were created in 30 days, pushing a dirt mound together for eventual i77 roadway, ahead of the water release that created Lake Norman back in 1960s. i77 has 4 lanes now. Before we slap 2 more lanes on top, adding 50% more weight, much of it static weight due to congestion, we demand a structural integrity test of the culverts and a thorough evaluation.

    NCDOT’s #1 directive should be highway safety, and NOT allowing an overpaid 50 year contractor to cut corners. Look at this ill-conceived project they crammed down our throats. And keep cramming and cramming, despite a multitude of damaging evidence and tremendous waste of tax payer dollars.

    Don’t forget, Cintra/Ferrovial’s bridge collapse in Canada 6 months ago!

    Posted by marielcarr | August 25, 2016, 11:32 am
  4. Big Dig Charlotte addittion!

    Posted by Mike | August 26, 2016, 9:09 am
  5. Where is the supervision of NCDOT? Oh, that’s right. There isn’t any! The legislature and the Feds believe everything NCDOT tells them, including CRTPO. Hundreds of not thousands of citizens are marginalized, labeled trouble makers and laughed at when valid concerns and findings are brought forward. This agency is out of control, arrogant and I believe highly incompetent under Tennnyson’s, Curran and McCrory’s control. None of them have any transportation degrees. It’s all cronyism.

    This project should not go forward with so many issues concerning the contract and the construction and severe lack of planning. The “build design” for such a challenging geographic area is not working. It’s time to kill this useless plan and expedite a working plan for the general purpose lanes needed to equalize I77 lane counts to eliminate the bottlenecks NCDOT created and then sold to foreign investors to get out of taking care of I77 for 50 years at the taxpayers expense, both in dollars and unnecessary frustration.

    If I had my way NCDOT Tennyson, Curran, Coxe and CRTPO Lyles would be charged with incompetence and fired. Get some people in who will recognize and honor that Charlotte does not live in a bubble. We are all connected and interstate and roads need to flow, not bottleneck for the good of us all.

    Posted by Anette | September 16, 2016, 8:52 am

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