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Cornelius News

Town Board reaffirms I-77 toll opposition; split with Mayor runs deep


Dec. 22. By Dave Vieser and Dave Yochum. While the volume has been turned down somewhat, Cornelius commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Monday night in favor of canceling the $650-million contract with Cintra to widen I-77.

The resolution takes pains to separate the commission from Mayor Chuck Travis on all things toll-related. Commissioner Dave Gilroy, who authored the resolution, called it a censure—a harshly critical term used in the past for politicians like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and US Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

“This censure of Mayor Travis is simply about accountability. In the past few years Travis has exercised very poor judgment on the most critical issue that has faced the citizens of North Mecklenburg in the last 50 years,” Gilroy said.

The five board members essentially agreed that everyone needs to understand that Mayor Chuck Travis is out on his own when it comes to his statements about I-77.

The resolution passed last night states that “any opinions expressed or actions taken by Mayor Travis, in the past or the future, which are counter to this resolution reflect his personal views and are in opposition to this Town Board, the community we represent, and the Town of Cornelius.” Commissioner Dave Gilroy offered the resolution; it was seconded by Dr. Mike Miltich.

The board’s position is now abundantly clear, well in advance of an important vote in January by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization. Gov. Pat McCrory said that’s who he wants to hear from regarding the 900-page contract with Cintra.

“It was time and important for the Cornelius Town Board to reaffirm our unanimous opposition to this project.  The Mayor must be on the same page with this board and the vast majority of our citizens.  Time is of the essence on stopping this project and I expect our message to be clear, direct and consistent coming out of Town Hall,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam.

The board specifically took exception to statements issued by Travis following his November trip to Texas to view managed lanes built and operated by Cintra, the parent of I-77 Mobility Partners.  The first draft of such a resolution, which contained even stronger language, was tabled at the Dec. 7 meeting after a spirited discussion led by Commissioner Gilroy, an early, ardent and articulate anti-toll political figure.

When asked for comment this morning, the mayor did not respond.

Proponents of the status quo—letting the contract play out for the next 50 years—are considerably fewer in number than eight or nine months ago. The Lake Norman Chamber came out solidly against the NCDOT-Cintra deal last spring.

Of course, years back, the Cornelius board voted for managed lanes, but the vote went 3-2. Gilroy said it’s inappropriate for Gov. McCrory to suggest in any way that there was any kind of consensus around the plan.

“There may have been votes years ago and split decisions…while that may [have been] true at a time when we had to choose on this project knowing nothing about it, vs. something not  happening in 20 or 30 years…that is ancient history,” Gilroy said.

Travis apparently did not choose to debrief Cornelius commissioners before or after the trip. From the center of the dais last night, Travis said he received a copy of the resolution at 3 p.m., just a few hours before the official public meeting.

The commissioners’ resolution said “we wish to communicate unambiguously that the Town of Cornelius demands the immediate termination of the I-77 managed lanes project and immediately implement general purpose lanes to relieve this region and its 130,000 plus citizens of the massive congestion we experience daily.”

Nevertheless, Travis ran unopposed in November.