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Cornelius News

Cornelius commissioners vote 5-0 to cancel toll lanes with HB-954

Kurt Naas

Kurt Naas, founder of WidenI77.org

May 17. By Dave Vieser. The Cornelius Town Board voted 5-0 to support HB-954, the bill sponsored by NC Reps. Charlie Jeter and John Bradford that would cancel the 50-year contract with Cintra to widen I-77 with toll lanes. Similar support has been expressed by other towns in the Lake Norman area, including Huntersville, and anti-toll advocates say the bill still stands a good chance of passing in the House.

“The word we are hearing is that HB-954 has a 5:1 majority in the House GOP caucus,” said Kurt Naas of Widen I77. “That alone should get the bill out of committee and through the House. The bill is not dead on arrival if it passes the House. However, the GOP Senate leadership will not take up the issue until it crosses over from the House.”

There are actually two bills circulating in the House to kill the toll lanes. The Jeter/Bradford bill calls for the appropriation of $25,000 from the DOT’s Highway Fund to be used for any legal fees incurred in determining the amount of damages that may be owed and other effects from cancelling the contract.

A second bill, HB 950, sponsored by NC Rep. Tricia Cotham, calls for the DOT to pay the legal fees from unobligated funds available in the department. “Both of the bills have the same focus,” said Carol Erichsen, Cotham’s legislative assistant. “But Rep. Cotham’s asks for NC DOT to absorb all costs involved in penalties and fees. She does not want the taxpayers to be stuck holding the bills.”

Naas said he thinks the GOP version will be the one which the House may ultimately approve. “954 has a greater chance of passing in a GOP-majority legislature and both Bradford and Jeter are native sons of the Lake Norman area.”

Assuming the Jeter/Bradford bill passes the House, toll lane cancellation would still face an unknown future in the Senate and from Governor Pat McCrory. Still, toll lane opponents are hopeful. “First things first: let’s make sure the bill gets out of the House committee” Naas said.