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CRTPO vote galvanized LKN opposition to tolls

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Jan. 22. You might call it Pyrrhic victory, one that causes as much harm to the winner as it does to those who appear to have been defeated.

The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization did just as expected last night, voting 50-12, based on a weighted voting system, to approve the concept of managed lanes and the plan to widen I-77 with tolls between Charlotte and Lake Norman.

The City of Charlotte, with just one representative, had 31 of the 50 weighted votes in favor of the plan.

RELATED: January 2016 – Managed Lanes Vote Tally

Cornelius and Huntersville each had two votes; Mecklenburg, Iredell and Union counties each had two votes; and Davidson had one vote—all of whose representatives voted against the $650 million plan that comes with a 50-year pact with a bedeviled Spanish company called Ferovial, aka Cintra, aka I-77 Mobility Partners.

The new Huntersville mayor, John Aneralla, said the outcome of WidenI-77’s lawsuit, Charlotte City Council’s directed vote in favor of the toll plan and the CRTPO vote, while expected, were disappointing.

“Despite all the design flaws, the fact that no northern towns currently support the plan, the costs of the tolls over 50 years, no truck access regardless of millions invested in the intermodal, the 50-year right of way give away, the corruption of the project manager—some elected officials still want to go through with the project,”Aneralla said.

Interestingly, in addition to Charlotte’s thumbs up, some of the towns that voted for managed lanes aren’t going to be affected by them, including Stallings, Weddington and Mineral Springs.

Of course, Mooresville’s delegate voted for the tolls as well.

Cornelius’ representative on the CRTPO, Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam, voted “no,” saying that “the fight is not dead, we still have options to pursue.”

The apparent victory of toll and managed lane advocates is Pyrrhic because political cost may be enormous. Some members of the Lake Norman business community are hardly on speaking terms with the mayors of Cornelius and Davidson, both of whom have taken less than ardent stands on the toll issue. Neither one responded to a high-level position survey put out by the I-77 Business Plan, an anti-toll group that meets each Tuesday at the Lake Norman Chamber.

The pro-toll stands of long-time elected officials in Huntersville led to their defeat in the November elections.

Aneralla, the new Huntersville mayor, said the notion of sticking with a 50-year deal—bad as it is—makes no sense, comparing it to a bad marriage, or “a coach that doesn’t change his game plan during a game when things aren’t working, a general that goes into a war with a plan and sticks with it despite losing ground to the enemy, and/or a business that stays with a money-losing product because it invested a lot in R&D. Only in government is this line of thinking considered acceptable.”

Washam said the anti-toll forces will work harder in Raleigh to oppose the toll plan.

Meanwhile, the Cornelius fire chief, Neal Smith, said I-77 Mobility Partners’ construction zone will create safety issues by narrowing lane widths and the barrier cutting off options on the left side of I-77. “Every project of this magnitude will come with issues until it is completed. We will have more difficulty accessing incidents due to the barriers. The main thing I encourage is to educate the public on what to do in case of minor or major incidents,” he said.

North Carolina laws allow for minor incidents to be moved prior to the arrival of emergency vehicles. The incident can be moved off the road into a safe environment. “This would help the traffic to continue to move and allow the emergency vehicle to gain access,” Smith said.

If there’s a major incident or wreck, cars should move to the right and allow emergency vehicles to pass on the left, Smith said. The emergency lane is made for the publics use; emergency vehicles need to remain on the road in the left lane to pass.

Smith said the department is working closely with Sugar Creek Construction to create access points on I-77 south of each bridge going south and north of each bridge traveling north bound. This will give the emergency responders points of access to enter in case of an accident in the construction zone.

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