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Toll talk: It looks like I-77 ‘solution’ was a lot of talk

 

June 18. By Dave Vieser. It sounded good. The optics were excellent. Last week, NC Rep. John Bradford went on Facebook to say he had some “incredible good news” about the hated I-77 toll lanes. The good news was that the House of Representatives was working on legislation to create a source to fund a modification of the CINTRA toll lane contract.

​Within days it unanimously passed the House, and went on to the Senate, where they did the representatives  one better: Their version funded not just a modification but an actual cancellation of the contract. “I thought we legitimately had a shot at canceling the entire contract once we had the Senate commit to appropriating up to $620 million of STI funds to the effort,” said NC Sen.Jeff Tarte, who strongly advocated for the bill. However, when the bill was sent back to the House on Friday for conciliation, all of the suggestions relating to the I-77 toll lane project were removed.

“The additional provisions added by the Senate would negatively impact current STI project dollars for projects such as the widening of Hwy. 73,” said Bradford. He believes a majority of legislators will not support a provision that will remove funding for local road projects in their districts.

Tarte took a different view: “I-77 is the most critically important transportation problem, and if we don’t solve that, those other roads and highways don’t matter at all.”

JIM PUCKETT

Local officials were understandably disappointed but they haven’t given up hope. “The House and Senate are both unanimous in wanting to fix this problem, but as of now we get nothing,” said Cornelius Mayor Pro Tem Mike Miltich. “However committees are still in session this week so I’m holding my breath.’

County Commissioner Jim Puckett, who has been vocal about the economic impact the toll lanes could have on the entire region, says everyone has to come together. “Almost 100 percent of the legislature agrees that this is a problem that needs to be fixed. But until we have the Senate, House and the DOT working on an agreed upon solution, we’re just taking stabs at trying to do something.”

Puckett says he is happy the entire legislature is on board as having voted to end the contract.

The 2018 short session is scheduled to continue this week and all eyes are likely to be focused on Raleigh as the week progresses with the hope that an agreement can finally be reached.

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