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Cornelius News

NCDOT seeks feedback on 50-year Cintra contract


Feb. 19By Dave Vieser. It looks like the NCDOT is suddenly paying attention to strenuous objections from the municipalities and governments that will be directly affected by the $650 million plan to widen I-77 with toll lanes between Charlotte and Lake Norman. In letters sent Feb. 17 to all the members of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, NCDOT Secretary Nicholas J. Tennyson asked for suggestions by March 14.

The letter said: “We may not be able to satisfy every issue raised, but we want to make certain we are identifying all the potential points of concern. We recognize there are aspects of this project for which additional review may yield a better outcome.” To read Nick Tennyson’s full letter, click here.

Interestingly, in January, NCDOT attorneys said people against the 50-year contract with a Spanish company were “a group of disgruntled individuals.”

Of course, it’s an election year, and Tennyson’s boss, Gov. Pat McCrory, faces a formidable opponent not just in the general election—NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat—but the Republican primary next month. Mooresville resident Robert Brawley is opposing him. Cornelius resident Dee Gilroy, one of the leaders of the toll opposition, is hosting a fundraiser March 2 for Brawley.

Changing the contract triggers the need to rebid the entire job, according Kurt Naas, head of the WidenI77 citizen’s advocacy group which fought the project in state court.

“Under North Carolina law, if a material change is made to a contract with the state, it must be rebid.  Wideni77 would be prepared to argue such in court,” he said. Mecklenburg County Commissioners Pat Cotham and Jim Puckett say contract changes of this magnitude require scrapping this contract and rebidding the project.

“Perhaps there is a subtle shift underway in trying to make the project better” said Bill Thunberg, Executive Director of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission. “We’ll see.”

Cornelius Commissioner Woody Washam, who also serves on the LNTC suggested that “maybe the NCDOT is finally acknowledging that the contract is problematic and they will finally pay attention to our board and citizens.” He said the Cornelius Town Board and staff will be working over the next few days to provide direct and specific feedback about the project and the contract.