June 15. The toll lane issue continues to dominate conversation with a passionate open letter to Gov. Pat McCrory written by a fellow Republican, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett over the weekend.
He said the “widening of I-77 [with toll lanes] is caught between the foolishness of the old and the wisdom of the new.”
Meanwhile, an online poll conducted by Business Today and Cornelius Today over the weekend showed that 86 percent of Cornelius Today readers would not vote to re-elect “an elected official who does not actively fight to end the toll road deal with Cintra.” On the BusinessToday web site, 91 percent said they would vote against those electeds who did not fight the toll lanes.
There were a total of 350 responses at 10:30 this morning
“The business community is overwhelmingly rejecting this plan, not based on the tolls but on the economic disaster that the limited access of current populations and the guaranteed gridlock on professional trucking and distribution the design promises,” said Puckett, one of the most outspoken critics of the toll plan.
(On Tuesday morning, John “Mac” McAlpine, the organizer of the I-77 “Emergency Call to Action” last month, will speak at the Business Today and Cornelius Today Newsmakers Breakfast at The Peninsula Club, starting at 7:30 am. Call 704-895-1335 to RSVP. The cost to attend is $12.)
Meanwhile, the 50-year, $650 million toll lane plan is on the agenda at tonight’s Town Board meeting in Huntersville. It’s unclear if there are enough votes on the board to carry a resolution requesting the termination of the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners. A toll resolution is not on tonight’s agenda at Mooresville Town Hall. The Huntersville meeting begins at 6:30 pm.
NC Sen. Jeff Tarte has said he will support legislation to defund the Cintra contract. However, some of his public statements on the subject, especially in a radio interview on WBT, have confused some people in the anti-toll camp.
But Puckett is out there swinging. In his letter to McCrory, he said “punishing the citizens of north Mecklenburg and Iredell County for simply finding their project caught at the wrong place at the wrong time is unfair, unwise and irresponsible. For 25 years, our citizens have dutifully paid their gas taxes and fees with the natural assumption their compliance would result in fair compensation.” His letter was published in the Charlotte Observer.
McAlpine said there were apparently no economic impact studies of the toll lanes’ impact on the Lake Norman business community. He said race teams in particular will be impacted. The tolls are expected to extract some $13 billion in revenue over the next 50 years.
“Widening I-77 is not a new project, not a recent need resulting from changing demographics but the next phase of plans laid out in 1995,” Puckett said.
Meanwhile, the governor’s NC Connect highway bond proposal does not include funds for widening I-77.
“Now we are told tolls are the only funding source for what is fundamentally the fulfillment of a promise to provide basic infrastructure. If in fact tolls were the only source, this would be tragic,” Puckett said in his letter.
“That you have identified bonding capacity and not included widening I-77 in your proposed Connect NC takes it beyond tragic and drops it solidly in the category of insulting,” the letter said.
Concord business owner Kurt Naas and Widen I-77.org continue to fight the toll plan in court. Naas’ opposition to tolls was early and steadfast. The widenI-77 group plans fundraisers to help pay for their lawsuit, and local businesses are pitching in.
The Rusty Rudder in Cornelius will donate 10 percent of proceeds this coming Thursday to the Widen I-77 lawsuit.
Construction won’t start until spring of next year.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners are expected to pass a resolution to defund the toll roads at their meeting tomorrow night.