“I think the takeaway is that the option that is on the table, based on all the governmental framework we have in place and the current funding mechanisms available, the choice is (a high-occupancy toll lane) project … or no improvements to I-77 for 15 or 20 years.”
—US Senate Candidate Thom Tillis
“If the option is to have toll lanes and start in the near future or wait 25-plus years for general purpose lanes, the decision is a no-brainer.”
–Cornelius Mayor-Elect Chuck Travis
“North Carolina’s Department of Transportation, though, says it would be 25 years or so before I-77 would be widened with traditional funding sources.”
–Charlotte Observer, May 28 2013
“It was just reiterated unequivocally by our legislative leaders that this (HOT lanes) is our one shot to get this done. This is it. That was underscored with bold type and exclamation points.”
–Cornelius Mayor Lynette Rinker
For years now, it’s been drummed in our heads: there is no money for roads. Never mind the construction going on elsewhere, for us in LKN it’s toll lanes or nothing for the next couple of decades.
As evidenced above, at all levels of government elected officials have bought into this despite the fact that the state recently changed the road funding process. With a greater emphasis on reducing congestion, a general purpose solution should get a higher priority than it has in the past.
The same holds true at the local level: MUMPO’ s first roll up of projects saw a GP lane solution leap from 93 all the way up to 25. We think that’s still too low (they gave it a head-scratching 57/100 for reducing congestion while HOT lanes got a 73/100), but considering where the GP project was, this is a couple of quantum leaps. In fact it’s high enough to go to the second round.
Now, just when the stars are beginning to align, we came across this comment in an Aug 8 memo from MUMPO to NCDOT:
“Finally, NCDOT has received multiple citizen requests to stop the current project and instead implement general purpose lanes in select locations. The (citizen) responses seem to focus on the lack of public funds to support general purpose lanes. The TCC (Technical Coordinating Committee of MUMPO) strongly feels the HOT lane element brings a new paradigm to transportation investment in North Carolina.”
So all this time, toll lanes- and 50 year contracts and private equity- are not about lack of funding, but rather ‘a new paradigm’, a concept so squishy it’s virtually impossible to debate! The memo goes on to talk about how HOT lanes are a better “long term investment” and emphasize “multi-occupant use.” There is no mention of the best use of the taxpayer dollar, and it conveniently ignores the fact that HOT lanes actually discourage carpooling by requiring 3 or more occupants per vehicle.
Nevertheless, now that there could be light at the end of the funding tunnel, the TCC claims all along they want HOT lanes for esoteric reasons. Forget about getting traffic moving, or re-investing tax dollars in the community. This is all about being new and cool and sexy, at least from a transportation standpoint.
The comment concludes with a request to give HOT lanes priority before “responding to requests for general purpose lanes.”
It’s signed by Robert Cook, MUMPO Secretary. You may wish to drop him a line at email@example.com