A $3 billion pie but no dessert for Lake Norman!

Editor,

The Charlotte Observer reported Jan. 14 that there are $3 billion in road projects underway around Charlotte.

Some are arguably less critical than widening I-77, but those projects received public funding while the widening between Exit 23 and Exit 36 is on a fast track to be built using a public private partnership (P3) scheme.  This approach to adding capacity relies on converting current HOV lanes to high occupancy toll (HOT) and adding an additional lane south of Exit 23 to Exit 36.

This P3 HOT lane concept is clearly the worst approach to not addressing our congestion problem in north Mecklenburg. A citizens group – WidenI77.org – is working to encourage Lake Norman politicians to prevent this solution from being imposed on its citizens.

The congestion problem on I-77 between Exit 23 and Exit 36 could be solved for about $130 million using general purpose or HOV lanes. The solution being imposed on us by our elected leaders will cost more than $550 million and will not solve the problems. What is even crazier is that the state is willing to contribute $170 million to the $550 million P3 HOT lane effort.

Why don’t they just spend $130 million to fix our problem and use the $40 million leftover from the state’s $170 million contribution to pay for other projects? Such a solution also allows Lake Norman citizens to keep more than $400 million for local government!

So how do we get a piece? We ask our elected leaders to go back to 2010 when the Red Line and I-77 were the subjects of horse-trading and part of a Charlotte-centric transportation agreement. The Red Line was allowed to dip into the transit “pot” for more than $220 million in state and local funding if it was built as part of that agreement.  The road “pot” was empty according to the power brokers in Raleigh.

It is time for our elected leaders to recognize that the Red Line will not happen in the near future and that the money committed to that rail effort needs to be transferred to I-77.

– Vince WInegardner, Davidson