Resident encourages Cornelius to oppose HOT lanes
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – The Cornelius town board meeting on Sept. 4 was dominated by discussion of a matter over which the board likely has very little influence: the widening of Interstate 77 via a High Occupancy Toll Lane.
The discussion followed a presentation by resident Kurt Naas, who called on the board to withdraw its support for the HOT lanes until alternative solutions to congestion have been adequately considered.
Once constructed, the HOT lanes would be available to drivers willing to pay a toll, which would increase during peak driving times. Drivers with passengers would be allowed to use the HOT lanes for free to encourage car-pooling.
“We don’t do ‘pay for use’ infrastructure,” Naas said. “It’s, I believe, improper for us not to pay school taxes if we don’t have children in CMS. We don’t only pay the fire department if our house is burning down.”
HOT lanes have been controversial because the benefit they provide goes to those willing to pay the toll. However, they haven’t been shown to ease traffic congestion in existing general purpose lanes. That would only happen if another general lane were added.
Naas also pointed out that the money generated by the toll – about $1 million per year – could easily be borne by the three North Mecklenburg towns and Mooresville, and suggested they look into funding the widening themselves with transportation bonds.
“I can tell you just what our Federal Highway Administration person told us at our last MUMPO meeting,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Lynette Rinker, who serves as the town’s representative to the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“We were talking about the HOT lanes, and she said, had we come to them asking for general purpose lanes for widening I-77, her words were that ‘that would have given us a lot of heartburn.’ In other words, it wasn’t going to happen because of air quality issues. The only way that this is getting approved by the feds is that it encourages carpooling.”
In other news
The board also discussed changes to the town’s rural zoning code, specifically whether there was any interest in reducing the current density standard of one house per five acres for new development.
The discussion was the result of a proposed development by an unnamed developer. The board decided that it would not change the density standard, which Town Manager Anthony Roberts said he would relay to the “potential applicant.”