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Hundreds attend anti-toll meeting in Mooresville

​B​y Dave Vieser. If there was any ​doubts t​hat people in Iredell County have significant concerns ​about​ the I-77 toll lane​s, they were erased ​in August​ ​when ​more than ​300 people showed up at the Charles Mack Citizen Center. The event was a community meeting on the controversial issue hosted by Widen I-77, ​the original​ anti toll lane advocacy group, and it attracted a wide range of business leaders and ​residents.

​At one point the​ f​​ire ​m​arshall was turning people away.

It’s not surprising. ​I-77​ within Iredell County ​will have ​the most number of interchanges and miles of any Lake Norman community. Under the current plan, Iredell County drivers will either pay the most in tolls or sit in traffic the longest.

The specific focus of this meeting was to provide an update on the draft consultants report analyzing the contract for this project. Mercator Advisors, based in Philadelphia, was hired in April by the DOT for $100,000 to review the contract and examine ways to improve or end the agreement. As it stands, the contract calls for adding express toll lanes from Exit 36 in Iredell County southward through Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville into Charlotte with Cintra’s subsidiary I-77 Mobility Partners managing the project for 50 years.

The ​NC​DOT is seeking input from the public before the report is finalized and anti​-​toll advocates want to be sure plenty of residents make their feelings known before it’s too late.

“What was focused on at the meeting is the negative impact that these lanes will have on the economy, not just locally and in the region, but to the entire state,” said ​Alaina ​Davis.  “Everyone was urged to contact their representatives to convey the profound negative economic impact the toll lanes and the continued, even exacerbated, congestion through this main trade artery will have.”

Kurt Naas

The fact that the state is even considering a change in the contract is “remarkable,” according to Widen I-77 ​founder Kurt Naas. “Residents realize this project is detrimental to our quality of life and our economy, which I believe explains the sustained opposition.”

However, not everyone is convinced that the toll lane contract should be shelved. “There have been instances of ​p​ublic​-private projects being purchased by the state at some point after completion,” said NC Rep. John Fraley (R-95). It does not seem logical to me that someone would sell an investment for their cost when there is a potential revenue stream with profit to follow.”

In either case, comments on the Mercator Report will continue to be accepted until Sept 9 at the web site I77feedback@ncdot.gov.

The report summary can be seen by accessing the following web site:

www.ncdot.gov/projects/I-77ExpressLanes/download/mercator-draft-report.pdf.

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