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LKN Chamber will come out against toll lanes

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June 23. By Dave Yochum. The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will officially come out against the plan to widen I-77 with toll lanes and a 50-year contract with a company whose roots are in Spain.

The chamber’s resolution, passed by its board of directors last night, requests that the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners be terminated. It also goes on to ask that the state look for “alternative funding” sources to pay for widening I-77 north of Charlotte, in Lake Norman.

The chamber is expected to announce its position today.

PRESS RELEASE: Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce urges State to cancel Toll Road Contract

The cost is estimated to be on the order of $100 million, but the 900-page contract between the NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners is worth on the order of $650 million.

The chamber’s request in essence provides support and backing for NC Sen. Jeff Tarte’s and NC Rep. John Bradford’s efforts to defund the contract with a Texas-based unit of Cintra, the Spanish company that is owned by Grupo Ferrovial in Madrid, Spain.

The chamber’s new position—for a number of years its position on the tolls has been as close to neutral as possible—is based on a survey of roughly 1,000 members.

About 20 percent responded to the survey which was launched last week. A source said 94 percent said they were opposed to the high occupancy toll lanes.

It turns out the state did not conduct an economic impact study on the $650 million plan to widen I-77 between Lake Norman and Charlotte with the help of a public-private partnership.

NCDOT’s Division 10 Outreach and Community Affairs director Warren Cooksey said, generally speaking, the state will not undertake economic impact studies for big highway projects.

The General Assembly, however, did mandate an economic assessment of ways to improve I-95 a couple of years ago, which was apparently “the one economic assessment of a highway project in North Carolina that I know to exist.”

Over the course of the 50-year contract with a company rooted in Spain, the toll plan is expected to cost on the order of $13 billion.

Costs vs. benefits have not been examined in a thorough, long-term way, said John R. “Mac” McAlpine, a motorsports engineer who organized the I-77 “Emergency Call to Action” held at Michael Waltrip Raceworld in late May.

Commuters can choose between special toll lanes for speedier trips into Charlotte—which presumably helps the flow of commerce—but large trucks will not be allowed to use them.

Discussion

4 Responses to “LKN Chamber will come out against toll lanes”

  1. Who would pay to ride in the express lanes if they had big trucks in them?

    I-85 in Gaston County has truck-free lanes, and I haven’t heard of anybody there being upset about it.

    I don’t think the status quo is that rosy, but if that’s what people want, fine with me. I don’t count wild fantasies that the concrete fairy will come some night and add some lanes or that the state will do anything here before they’ve paved over all of eastern North Carolina.

    Posted by Steve Lee | June 23, 2015, 3:30 pm
  2. The issue that businesses have with the tolls are 1) toll charges are estimated to be 20.00 round trip from Lake Norman which is not an affordable amount to most drivers. 2) the agreement that was signed guarantees no widening of anything in the area (other than the one $20.00 toll lane each way) – no more lanes for I77 or Statesville Rd. or Old Statesville Rd. FOR THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS.

    The next part of the plan is to slowly ring Charlotte completely in the same type of toll roads thereby strangling all growth in the entire greater Charlotte area. In order to get financing, they had to guarantee that they would create such hellish congestion that desperate drivers would be forced onto hellishly expensive toll lanes. But they won’t be – they will be forced onto back roads, away from businesses, or they will be forced to move from this area entirely.

    No new businesses in their right mind will ever locate here and many businesses have already stated that they will have to leave this area.

    Posted by Linda Gillman | June 23, 2015, 6:26 pm
  3. Steve, one of the pro-toll arguments is that by people choosing to pay to ride in the toll lane, the general purpose lanes will also move faster. If the same number of trucks remain in the general purpose lanes, there will be no congestion relief whatsoever.

    The Lake Norman region deserves a long-term toll-free solution just like Carrabus County got on I-85. Why should we have to pay tolls to get an 8 lane interstate, but they don’t? This toll disease will spread all around the Charlotte region if we don’t stop this project.

    Posted by Dave M | June 23, 2015, 6:39 pm
  4. We just need the same concrete fairy that is dusting 64 to Asheboro and I26 south of Asheville. To quote Pat Cain Cotham, “It is a matter or priority.” We need to clearly explain that we do not want to be in a race to the bottom by scuttling the economic engine of Lake Norman.

    Posted by Mac | June 25, 2015, 3:52 am

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