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Cornelius News

I-77 Advisory Group digs in; more meetings planned

April 19. It looks like the I77 Advisory Group will not wrap up its deliberations any time soon. At their meeting this week in Huntersville, members agreed to meet again April 30 to review the various options proposed by Mercator Advisors, and possibly combine some elements from each to create a new option. Additional meetings will also be required, according to NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon, possibly during the summer, as more information is analyzed.


It may be a good sign for those who oppose the toll plan which will apparently do little to ease congestion on 77 between Charlotte and Lake Norman. Sources say there’s an increasing understanding in Raleigh that the 50-year, 900-page contract with Cintra, the company that will operate the toll lanes, is a fiasco on many levels. Indeed, there was never an economic impact study done before inking the deal.

“This contract is a screw-up and there’s no other way to put it,” said County Commissioner Pat Cotham. “I- 77 is the Main Street in the Lake Norman area and impacts on most residents every day.”

There are no parallel roads to the interstate between Exits 28 and 33. Gridlock is more and more common in picturesque Davidson when there’s heavy congestion on I-77.

Prior to tackling the Complete and Delete details, Cornelius Commissioner Kurt Naas also took issue with the cost factor range in excess of $350 million for buying out the CINTRA contract published by Mercator in the report. He asked: “How do we know those numbers are real?”

CINTRA has a history of overstating anticipated toll road revenues, and then going bankrupt. 

As to the cost, County Commissioner Jim Puckett urged members not to get hung up on the magnitude of the buyout. “The county messed up their reval back in 2012, and we had to find $110 million to fix it. We did, and without any increase in the tax rate,”  he said.

The second half of the meeting featured more comments, pro and con, on the Complete and Delete option whereby the toll lanes would be built and then the contract eliminated with the state running the interstate.

As 3 pm sped by, it became abundantly clear that more time would be needed, and the members agreed to hold a seventh meeting at 1 pm Monday April 30. The location meeting is still to be determined.