Now is not the time for massive Red Line debt

Editor,

Paul Morris, Deputy Secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation was quoted as informing local officials that the initial cost estimate for the Red Line is $450 million and that 50 percent of the cost is to be borne by Cornelius, Huntersville, Davidson and Mooresville – 12.5 percent each. This means Davidson’s share, as currently estimated, will be approximately $28 million, about Davidson’s current share of the MI-Connection debt.

On first glance, there are several problems with this.  First, given the massive cost overruns typical for every transit project ever done, a more realistic estimate would be much more than $450 million.  Second, Mooresville is already on record as opposing the Red Line, so Davidson’s share of the cost would be much more than the estimated 12.5 percent.  Third, the estimate does not take into account the necessary construction of a massive parking structure in downtown Davidson. Fourth, Davidson is already burdened by the MI-Connection debt, and really can’t afford to add yet more debt for a project that has very little prospect of a real economic benefit to the town.

I realize that these are early days for the commuter line, but I hope that the town is not going to be led over another financial cliff.

– Tom MacDonald, Davidson

HOT lanes: Another government mistake

Editor,

I am deeply concerned about the proposed high-occupancy toll lanes being considered for Interstate-77 because I don’t know if all the options been put on the table. If so, what metrics were used to deem this the best idea?

How is it these lanes are still even up for discussion?

When will listening to the taxpayers become the prerequisite for decision making that affects so many people for so long?

As it is, this solution to the 10-mile traffic issue on I-77 only appears the best one on the table because it is presently getting some press. Let me take you back a few short years. A princess came to town and Cornelius fell head over heels with the enchanting looks and beguiling ways of “Augustalee.” Unfortunately, this was based on her magic dust illusion of a proposed traffic solution, her very own exit ramp. If memory serves, Cornelius was sold on the idea of a perpetual pot of gold being on the other side of that bridge. In hindsight, it is glaringly obvious that Cornelius – and countless local businesses – would be in a much worse position financially had that project moved forward. Also, there was never any unbiased evidence that exit 27 (or any of the proposed road improvements) would have solved anything more than the development it would have created.

The point is our officials agreed to that illusion, despite a huge amount of resistance, because it was eye candy for a problem they had no better ideas for. HOT lanes are more of the same, and in only one sense the best idea toward solving the issue. That sense is because of highly questionable data that offers the illusion of profitability. Am I the only one seeing a trend here?

There are at least two primary reasons the HOT lane should not be chosen to try and solve the I-77 bottleneck. 1) The lack of foresight that will later be burdened on local businesses and taxpayers. Just like the MI-Connection fiasco that was thankfully averted in Cornelius, so too should any potential downsides of something this risky. Simply, it is not the responsibility of the local taxpayers to bear the risk of the downsides (Remember the Alamo, and MI!). Besides, we already paid for adequate infrastructure once.

2) Back to profitability: profit for whom, at the expense of whom? Yes, profitability is one, if unlikely, potential outcome. But what are the risks with this plan? Wouldn’t Davidson and Mooresville like to turn back time and change just one little vote that looked too profitable to be true?

What is the correction strategy to protect the towns and citizens if the proposed HOT lanes don’t solve the traffic issue adequately? Can the project be designed to the standards of a conservative 20 or 30-year risk in the first place? Secondly, can designs be altered if the original plan proves inadequate? Will we be able to go back and change our minds? Then we should change our minds in the first place, at least until all the options and risks are understood fully and weighed accurately.

– Mike Montanaro, Cornelius