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Cornelius News

I77 Local Advisory Group meets Wednesday


Aug. 13. By Dave Vieser. Members of the I-77 Local Advisory Group will conduct perhaps their most important meeting on Wednesday. NCDOT Secretary James Trogdon is expected to outline what steps need to be taken to alter the controversial 50-year toll lane contract. At their most recent meeting in May, Advisory Group members voiced nearly universal agreement to complete the current construction, and then alter the I-77 expansion in Mecklenburg County from two toll lanes to one general purpose lane and one toll lane. The committee had spent several months reviewing a series of options submitted by local residents and officials.

Trogdon had promised to reconvene the committee once he had developed “a road map” to achieve the committee’s preferences.

The advisory committee has essentially taken the lead on the controversial toll lane issue. In fact, a group of local business leaders, known as the I-77 Business Plan Group, has not met since the advisory group was initiated. Several of the business plan group members are on the advisory board.

Earlier this year, there was an ill-fated attempt to pass legislation in Raleigh which would provide a funding mechanism to cover the costs of canceling the CINTRA contract. The need to do something about the toll lane contract has brought elected officials from both parties together.

“This is a unique situation,” said County Commissioner Pat Cotham, a Democrat, and I’m proud of what our advisory committee members have accomplished.”

Republican County Commissioner Jim Puckett said that “most, if not all of us, believe we are better off spending a year or two cleaning up the contract mess now rather than being stuck with the CINTRA deal for 50 years.” Earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper commissioned a fresh study by Mercator Advisors on the I-77 toll lane project. There’s general agreement that inaction on the toll lanes was a major reason why Pat McCroy lost his bid for reelection in 2016.