Our transportation planners are considering three options to widen Interstate 77: add a toll lane up to exit 28, add a toll lane up to exit 33 or add a toll lane up to Mooresville.
Every solution revolves around a toll lane. I don’t know about you, but I just sent a chunk of change off to Raleigh last month with the quaint notion that some of it will pay for roads.
Could it be the folks in Raleigh are suddenly interested because they found some dupes willing to pay for a road twice?
Adding a lane on I-77 through the Lake Norman area requires no right-of-way purchase, no bridge reconstruction and minimal grading. In short, it’s easy. But a toll lane is a first resort. Why?
The Lake Norman Transportation Commission, Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis all give the same answer: There’s no money. They’re wrong.
Exhibit A: the state is spending $75 million to add lanes on Interstate 485 for eight miles. That’s a nasty stretch of road, carrying 120,000 cars on six lanes. But I-77 carries 90,000 cars on just four lanes. The I-485 project is scheduled to start next year. I-77 won’t get its turn until 2017 at the earliest, and only if we build toll lanes.
Exhibit B: The N.C. Department of Transportation coughed up $15 million to transform three lanes of I-77 through downtown into three lanes of I-77 through downtown. I’m not kidding. That money is going to widen each lane by 18 inches. Clearly we have a priority problem, not a fiscal one.
Yet, no elected official or public employee I’ve talked to has suggested we look at an intermediate, general-purpose lane.
Funny thing is by all accounts, citizens are overwhelmingly against toll lanes. Cornelius’ own Mobility Theme committee, a citizen group, opposes the idea, and emails to my blog are running about 80 percent against.
As far as I’m concerned, I pay my toll every April 15.
– Kurt Naas, Cornelius