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Important Dates

I-77 toll lanes focus of Feb. 8 business briefing

Feb. 3.  The I-77 Business Plan and Widen I-77 have announced a special business briefing from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.  The presentation will focus on the economic impact of the proposed toll lanes at Lake Norman.  Business owners, managers, employees, and citizens are encouraged to attend this public meeting.

Business leaders John Hettwer and Kurt Naas will be joined by Mecklenburg County Board Commissioner Jim Puckett as they cite the business and economic implications of the proposed toll lane plan on the Lake Norman economy.  Hettwer, president of Payroll Plus, is the chair of the I77 Business Plan and a former board chair of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.  Kurt Naas is the organizing founder of Widen I77.

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, along with many local elected officials, initially took a firm stance that the widening of I-77 from exit 36 to just below exit 23 was critical to the overall economic health of the region.  Bill Russell, president of the chamber and an ex-officio board member of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission, points out that local elected and business leaders were presented with the options of widening I-77 through tolling or waiting 20 years or more for the project to be funded with general purpose lanes.

“We did not think putting off relief for 20 years was an option,” Russell said.  “However, it is now evident the proposed HOT lanes will not relieve congestion – it actually guarantees it!”  The chamber reversed its stand on the contract this past June and has firmly opposed the project.  Mecklenburg County and the Towns of Huntersville, Davidson, and Cornelius support this stance.

Hettwer agreed.  “Like many business owners in the last few years, I was battling through the recession, building my business, and confident our elected leadership was looking out for all of us.  Unfortunately, they were being given misleading information by the NCDOT, and we now find ourselves in a fight for the economic and business vitality of our region.”

District 1 Commissioner Puckett has been a longtime opponent of the toll project.  “I-77 is the lifeline of North Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties, and the current design and tolling plans will have a devastating impact on the future of our region and economic development going forward.  With the current ill-conceived plan contracted to last 50 years, now is the time for the business community to require a better solution.”

Business leaders hope to use the meeting to further educate businesses and citizens on the impact of tolling at the lake and the plans to move forward.  Hettwer said he hopes citizens and business owners will attend the business briefing and encourage their friends and neighbors to attend as well.  “We want to thank Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins for sponsoring and arranging this session to provide additional information to the citizens of Mooresville and South Iredell County,” said Hettwer.  “I know a great many elected leaders, including our governor, say it’s far too late to stop this project now.  Perhaps so, but on the other hand, it’s simply never too late to do the right thing.”