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LKN businesses en route to Raleigh with 300 no-toll signatures

LKN businesses en route to Raleigh with 300 no-toll signatures

Mac McAlpine with TV reporters from Charlotte

June 30. Lake Norman power hitters like Chamber Chair Mike Russell, commercial real estate broker Tom McMahon, former Chamber Chair John Hettwer, racing executive Greg Wallace and bankers Tom Dutton and Jim Engel are on their way to Raleigh to express profound and deep-rooted opposition to the NCDOT plan to widen I-77 with toll lanes and a public-private partnership that will last 50 years.

John “Mac” McAlpine, the John Q. Businessman behind the historic bus ride, will hold a press conference in the State Capitol at 12:30 pm to deliver some 300 signatures from local and regional businesses opposing what’s looking more and more like a $650 million boondoggle.

LKN businesses en route to Raleigh with 300 no-toll signatures

Business leaders flank McAlpine just before getting on the bus. Click to enlarge

Among the signatories: The Cabarrus Events Association, Ray Evernham, Roush Yates Engines, Champion Tire and Wheel, former Chamber Chair Donna Moffett, former Chamber Chair Bob McIntosh and Champion Tire & Wheel.

Interestingly enough, Gov. Pat McCrory has scheduled his own press conference at noon—a half hour before McAlpine’s—to discuss his $3 billion NC Connect bond package for North Carolina’s more rural highways. It excludes Charlotte as of right now.

Also on the bus to Raleigh is Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett. The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, along with other local governments have passed resolutions asking for a delay or cancellation of the contract with Cintra. All told, nearly three dozen Lake Norman business leaders are on their way to Raleigh right now.

Under the contract, North Carolina forfeits the right to significantly improve parallel roads between Lake Norman and Charlotte until 2065 when McAlpine, one of the youngest people on the bus, will be 88 years old.

“The estimated productivity loss is $10 billion to $20 billion over the course of the contract, creating an unavoidable competitive disadvantage for area businesses,” McAlpine said.

The Lake Norman Chamber is already reporting that commercial developers are expressing concern about corporate relocation and expansion, due to the toll lane plans.

There is a flip side, of course. General purpose lanes—those with no tolls—help drive development. Building them now will likely mean that in five years they will be as congested as the GP lanes are right now.

Hence the name “managed lanes” for the concept of using tolls to provide a guaranteed route for automobiles between Charlotte and Lake Norman.

The toll lanes, however, do not allow trucks, which are the lifeblood of many businesses large and small.

Even in the face of mounting opposition, the NCDOT signed the contract for 26 miles of toll lanes between Charlotte and Mooresville. Construction was supposed to start this summer, but at this point it won’t commence until next year.

McCrory and state DOT officials say the contract is a done deal. There is a $100 million penalty that would be borne by the state at this point if the contract is overturned.