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Toll resolution on deck tonight at Davidson Town Hall

Toll resolution on deck tonight in Davidson

June 9. Tonight’s Davidson Town Board meeting may be another litmus test in the battle to defund the $650 million plan to widen I-77 between Lake Norman and Charlotte with the help of toll lanes and a company from Spain.

Town Commissioner James Fuller is expected to propose a resolution that backs NC Sen. Jeff Tarte and NC Rep. John Bradford in their efforts, based on business and community support, to somehow end the contract with Cintra, based in Madrid.

In essence, the resolution recognizes and appreciates the efforts of the two local legislators to explore legislative alternatives to the toll lanes as a means to “fund additional and much-needed lanes on I-77.”

It appears Commissioner Stacey Anderson would support the resolution, while Rodney Graham would not. Commissioners Beth Cashion and Brian Jenest could not be reached for comment.

Regardless, a more strongly worded resolution is not out of the realm of possibilities, but apparently not as strong as the one passed by the Town Board in Cornelius last week. The final draft of that resolution, condemning the toll lane project, was crafted live in front of a lively and engaged audience.

It included members of Widen I-77, the anti-toll group headed up by Cornelius resident Kurt Naas. Members of Widen I-77 are expected at today’s Davidson meeting which gets under way with an informal session at 4 pm.

NCDOT Under Secretary Nick Tennyson is expected to address the Davidson Town Board and citizens. He is responsible for providing oversight and integration across all operational and support functions of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Fuller said he is open to other members of the town commission editing his resolution or proposing another one in its place.

Tarte said it will be “interesting to see what Davidson does.” Momentum from the business community especially will help provide the support that is needed to thwart the Cintra contract, Tarte explained.

“The cost to terminate may be insurmountable for members of the NC General Assembly,” Tarte state.
Graham is one of those elected officials in the position of supporting toll lanes as the best and fastest way to widen the interstate.

“I’m not sure it [alternatives to the toll plan] stands much of a chance. There is a fair amount of wishful thinking,” Graham, a custom homebuilder, said.

One of the most widely discussed possibilities is including I-77 in Gov. Pat McCrory’s NC Connect bond package. The $3 billion bond package, of course, would have to go before voters in the fall, and that’s anything but guaranteed.

So, legislators like Tarte and Bradford would have to get I-77 onto the governor’s list of projects, which means another project would likely have to come off.

“Assuming that bond would be approved…the I-77 project would still have to be added to it, so something else has to come off. I’m not willing to bank that is going to happen, good guys that they are,” Graham said, referring to Tarte and Bradford. “I don’t know if our guys can accomplish getting that kind of largesse ¬†from Raleigh.”

The downside, Graham said, is not having I-77 widened in the next 10 years.

Traffic on 77 is bad enough that he won’t consider requests to build houses in Charlotte.

Of course, not everyone can turn down business in Charlotte. Fuller said the toll plan would likely be a disaster for home values and the local economy.

Commissioner Anderson signed a letter last year asking NCDOT to delay the Cintra toll plan. “I’m not in favor of a 50-year contract with Cintra. If the Widen I-77 lawsuit gets us out of that, that’s great. It’s not a good contract,” Anderson said.

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