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Governor to LKN: Drop Dead


Nov. 13. UPDATED. By Dave Yochum. Although four North Carolina legislators have called on the governor to exercise the termination provisions in NCDOT’s I-77 contract with Cintra, a Spanish company, Pat McCrory is sticking to his guns.

Within an hour after the four said they will seek a temporary restraining order to stop the project, McCrory’s NCDOT secretary said a letter from the legislators was “riddled with inaccurate and false claims.” The NCDOT letter was sent on behalf of the governor’s office, according to NCDOT spokesperson Jordan-Ashley Baker Walker.

Nevertheless, the governor will apparently attend an emergency summit in Lake Norman Nov. 23 on the controversial toll project.

“It is time for this project to be cancelled,” Sen. Jeff Tarte said at a press conference Friday at the Lake Norman Chamber. “It is time to redefine the project into several smaller projects.”

12239703_10208505950914097_4986840488958242895_nThe first project should be confined to the Lake Norman area, Tarte said. Other legislators signing the letter to the governor are Sen. David L. Curtis, of Lincoln County, Rep. John Bradford, of Cornelius, and Rep. Charles Jeter, of Huntersville.

Jeter said he did not know whether the governor will speak to him after today’s letter.

Indeed, 51 minutes after the press conference ended, the NCDOT issued a statement from NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson that roundly criticized the four legislators’ letter. (See below)

The legislators’ letter to the governor states: “A combination of several important facts have come to light since the contract was signed, that we believe materially breach the intent, desire and long-term expectations to move forward with this managed project.”

The four legislators called on the project to be re-ranked by the state, in terms of already-agreed upon parameters.

Mike Russell, chairman of the Lake Norman Chamber, said: “The announcement of the ceremonial groundbreaking of the I-77 toll road project will do nothing to slow the building momentum enjoyed by those opposed to the tolls coming out of last week’s election. It’s not a done deal until we lay down.”

The letter says the current toll plan calls for new lanes that are not sufficiently strong enough to support truck traffic. “In order to have these interstate highway lanes able to facilitate truck traffic at anytime after the managed lanes are built, these lanes would have to be ground to the base and completely rebuilt from scratch. This would render the over $650 million of taxpayer and equity partner investment a significant waste of money.”

Jeter, during the press conference, said political leaders need to “listen when our residents speak, and adjust when the facts change.”

He said I-77 Mobility Partners has a history of disingenuous statements, especially around yesterday’s announcement that construction starts Monday.

“It’s a little rich,” Jeter said, of I-77 Mobility Partner’s plans to move dirt in three days.

The letter said local businesses believe that the toll plan would “systematically give an advantage to certain businesses and selectively put other businesses at risk of failure. The adverse environment is created by the design that provides no ingress or egress points to access businesses at selected exits. Once the managed lanes are implemented, travelers using the toll lanes will not be able to access restaurants, gas stations and hotels at multiple exits on I-77. This is not sustainable for small business owners.”

Lake Norman Chamber Chairman Mike Russell, and other business leaders, fear the toll plan will worsen congestion by concentrating slow-moving tractor-trailers in the two existing general purpose lanes. The toll design, too, appears to prevent on-off access at Exit 28, deemed Lake Norman’s “Main Street” by the Chamber of Commerce.

The date and location had not been set as of 10 am today, Jeter said. The question is whether a summit that is still in the planning stages would provide enough political cover for the governor to red flag the Cintra deal. Jeter admitted it is unclear whether the governor will attend.

When the public hue and cry reached a crescendo in May, the NCDOT pushed the financial close a week ahead of plan.

Important legislators like NC Rep. Bill Brawley of Charlotte are still on board with the plan. He is senior chair of the House Finance Committee, which, of course, holds the purse strings to literally hundreds of projects in and around the state.He told Business Today earlier this week that North Meck officials at one time gave thumbs up to tolls, and there is virtually no going back at this point.