In the News

Herald WeeklyOct 19 – Full Page Anti Toll Advertisement in the paper asking voters to Fire Huntersville Mayor and Commissioners McAulay & Julian – and referenced the video of McAulay shutting down discussion at the MUMPO meeting video

ConstitutionalWarPosted Oct 19, 2013

Lt. Gov Dan Forest speaks against Toll Roads

Speaker of the House and Cornelius resident Thom Tillis speaks for them

First foreign-owned toll road in Texas downgraded to junk bond status

The Examiner.com   October 19, 2013

Hate to say it, but we told you so.

Texas’ first foreign-owned toll road financed through a controversial public private partnership just got downgraded to junk bond status by Moody’s Investors Service. The Spain-based firm, Cintra (65% ownership), and San Antonio-based Zachry (35% ownership), known as SH 130 Concession Company opened the southern leg of State Highway 130 last November.

Concerned citizens with Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) immediately launched a boycott of SH 130. Since then, the anemically low traffic levels signaled trouble from the beginning and Moody’s downgraded the concession company’s rating in April warning of the risk of default. The downgrade this week warns of default unless the company can restructure its debt or attract a substantial increase in traffic.

Moody’s predicts Cintra will be unable to meet its June 2014 debt service payment: “Thus, absent a sponsor injection of equity, a debt restructuring, or some other method of generating significantly more revenues, there is a high likelihood of a payment default in June 2014.”

The concessionaire has already dipped into its reserves to meet prior debt service payments and will need to tap its contingency funds to make its December payment, leaving inadequate funds to meet its June 2014 debt payment. If Cintra defaults on its debt, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) could execute a termination agreement and takeover the tollway, leaving lenders with limited ability to take possession of the facility as collateral.

It’s unclear whether TxDOT would continue to operate the highway as a toll road or as a freeway. State Representative Paul Workman authored a bill in the Texas legislature earlier this year to tap state and federal funds to buy back the ailing tollway and make it a freeway. Many predict if SH 130 were a free highway that the road would finally attract significant levels of traffic from the heavily congested Interstate 35, which most travelers cannot afford to do now given the high cost of tolls in addition to the higher consumption of gas given the road’s extra distance and the road’s highest-in-the-nation 85 MPH speed limit.

NAFTA superhighway going south
One of the drivers behind the push to build SH 130 was the anticipated influx of truck and trade traffic due to NAFTA. It was part of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 project and the only segment of the corridor to ever be built. Texas Governor Rick Perry and state lawmakers pulled the plug on the politically unpopular project in 2009 when Texans went nuclear over the massive size (originally 1,200 feet wide – of three times the size of an normal interstate) and hence the giant land grab using eminent domain for private profits as well as the concept of foreign-ownership of its public highways.

But the push to privatize Texas roadways and build the corridor piece-by-piece utilizing public private partnerships (known as P3s) with a smaller footprint still advances. NAFTA traffic isn’t going to abate anytime soon with the anticipated expansion of the Panama Canal expected to open next year. The Texas legislature approved a bill, SB 1730, earlier this year allowing 23 projects to be privatized using P3s — a few part of the original Trans Texas Corridor plan.

Taxpayers footing the bill
Texas taxpayers have already subsidized the privately-operated tollway through advertising and buying down a one-year truck toll rate reduction announced at the beginning of the year. Texans have also paid for new signage along Interstate 410 and Interstate 10 to entice travelers to use the privately-run tollway.

All U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for repayment of a $430 million federal TIFIA loan on the SH 130 project. It’s the TIFIA loan that complicates any default and the potential for the tollway to be converted to a freeway. On the first P3 that received a TIFIA loan, the SouthBay Expressway in San Diego, the project went bankrupt in less than three years after its opening when forecasted traffic was wildly overstated and off by nearly 40,000 cars a day. Taxpayers had to eat nearly $80 million in losses on that TIFIA loan. Building roads with debt is never a good thing.

P3s a big bust
The failure of Texas’ first public-private venture demonstrates the folly of utilizing P3s for public infrastructure. Taxpayer money is always involved and therefore the potential for taxpayer bailouts is always looming. Throw in the fact that they contain non-compete clauses that limit or prohibit the expansion of free roads surrounding the private tollways, and P3s directly threaten one’s freedom of mobility.

At the end of the day, P3s represent public money for private profits and do little to solve urban congestion. Texas is building underutilized tollways using a scurrilous financing mechanism that erodes state sovereignty and impedes freedom to travel. Lawmakers and whoever the new governor will be need to dump P3s and get back to a freely accessible, affordable pay-as-you-go freeway system that serves all Texans equitably.

EDITORIAL: Not so HOT lanes

The Washington Times – July 2009

Virginia is trying to pull a fast one on motorists who live along the Interstate 95/395 corridor, and we all will be moving slower and paying more as a result.

By summer’s end, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) hopes to close on a second financial deal for a high-occupancy toll road, known as HOT lanes. The latest plan effectively hands ownership of Interstate 95/395 to a foreign corporation for the next 80 years.

Transurban Group, based in Melbourne, Australia, will lease the existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for the 64-mile stretch between Spotsylvania, Va., and the Pentagon. Transurban will be responsible for building a complicated series of new access ramps and performing upkeep and maintenance for the lanes. Drivers interested in a congestion-free ride can pay an expected $1 – or more – per mile to use the HOT lanes while the regular lanes are gridlocked.

If this arrangement sounds familiar, it’s because Transurban already is pouring concrete for 14 miles of brand-new toll lanes on the Capital Beltway near Tysons Corner.

The devil is in the details of these deals. The Beltway gets new lane construction where it is needed most; 95/395 does not. Instead, between Garrisonville Road and the Pentagon, three lanes will be squeezed into the existing two-lane space. To accommodate the extra toll lane, the existing lanes and the shoulders will be narrowed. This narrowing will make the road far more dangerous — but also far more profitable because the thoroughfare will carry more toll-paying automobiles.

The unlikely commuter who undertakes the entire 64-mile journey from Spotsylvania would pay a shocking $33,280 each year to use the toll lanes. More common commutes from a town such as Dumfries would cost drivers $8,840 each year. These initial amounts would adjust upward for inflation and added profit year on year until 2087.

HOT lanes are more restrictive than HOV lanes, which are open to anyone with two passengers during peak hours and anyone at all during non-peak hours. Only those who register for and install a special car-pool tracking device will be allowed into HOT lanes for free. Because it is in Transurban’s interest to minimize the number of nonpaying customers, VDOT agreed to contract language that will actively discourage ride sharing on the Beltway. If the rate of carpooling actually increases beyond a predetermined level, the state (i.e., taxpayers) must pay monetary penalties to the Australian company.

There is nothing market-oriented about HOT lanes. According to the Beltway contract, Virginia taxpayers are on the hook once again if, between now and 2087, improvements are made to free, non-tolled roads in the vicinity of the toll lanes. These “noncompete” agreements ensure that the toll-road company will enjoy a monopoly at taxpayer expense because surrounding roads will grow increasingly congested in the ensuing eight decades. In other words, free roads will be neglected and not expanded to create congestion that will force motorists into the tolled lanes.

The more area commuters know about what’s happening, the less they like it. Locally elected officials in Alexandria, Arlington and Prince William County aren’t buying it, either. Each of those jurisdictions has passed resolutions demanding answers to hard questions about the wisdom of the HOT lanes project.

The biggest culprit here is the Virginia General Assembly. In 1995, lawmakers dropped their responsibility and gave unelected bureaucrats free rein to sign deals like this. That leaves those of us who will face the consequences of increased congestion and accidents with little say in the matter. At this point, the only person who can stop this deal is VDOT Secretary Pierce R. Homer. Drivers interested in a speedier commute should let him know what they think at pierce.homer@governor.virginia.gov or 804/692-2581.

TURF

Group Proposes Statewide Initiative To Ban Freeway Tolls
Initiative filed in Washington state would outlaw the tolling of interstate highways.
The Newspaper.com
February 14, 2013

SR167 toll laneActivists in Washington state want voters to decide whether interstate highways should ever be converted into toll roads. An initiative filed on Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office would repeal provisions in state law that promote the use of tolling and force full disclosure of information on existing and proposed projects. About 330,000 signatures would be needed to guarantee the measure a spot on an upcoming ballot.
“After the date that this act is approved by the voters of the state, the State of Washington, Washington State Department of Transportation and the Transportation Commission are prohibited from establishing tolls on any interstate system highways and any appurtenances thereto that are located within the boundaries of the state of Washington and prohibited from continuing to plan, promote policies, or otherwise engage in activities intended to promote or establish tolls on the state’s interstate system roadways,” the initiative states.  Read Article here

Time WarnerRecent Video (Posted Oct 13)
Speak Up Charlotte Guest Host Wayne Powers
This week Vallee Bubak discussed the I77 Toll Lane issue, what is at stake, and the politics and implications for North Carolina.

Business TodayIn Sept 13, 2013 edition

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JumpBusiness Today.

In Sept 13, 2013 edition

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ConstitutionalWar

Wednesday July 17 (Posted July 29)  NCDOT HOT Lane Project Briefing.

Here is a video of the public comment period at the Wednesday Pack the Mack NCDOT meeting on HOT lanes in Mooresville. The use of HOT lanes is an attack on our mobility and our tax paid infrastructure. All of the comments were helpful. At minute 52 Vallee Buback speaks about concerns regarding political contributions from the Parsons Brinckerhoff PAC. You can find out more about Parsons Brinkerhoff on their website. (This is a must-read article since this is the firm employed by NCDOT, CATS and NC for infrastructure projects. They do roads, airports, water systems and sustainable development.) A PB P3 could be coming to you — and in more ways than just roads.

Charlotte ObserverThursday July 18

I77 toll lane hearing

About 75 toll lane opponents attended the first public hearing Wednesday night in Mooresville. No one in the audience raised a hand when a speaker asked if anyone supported the $550 million project.  Read full article here

Observer traffic June 2013Photo from Observer article.  Note, ZERO vehicles in the 2+ HOV lane.  How many people would be riding 3+ or pay $2 from Harris Blvd or $6.50 from Davidson to ride in it ?????

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WBT RadioThursday, July 11. This is the Keith Larson Show with Doc Washburn filling in – discusses HOT Lanes with Kurt Naas

Listen

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.IBTTAPosted July, 8, 2013

Wonder what will happen to those who don’t pay a toll or have a billing dispute? Here’s an excerpt from a summary of last years’ International Bridge Tunnel Turnpike Organization’s (IBTTA.org) annual conference.  Note that “shame and embarrassment” could be a tactic.

A panelist recommended a collection system based on “progressive discipline” that encourages earlier payment of tolls and violations, but stressed that it’s important to know when a customer ceases to be a customer. AET [All Electronic Tolling] blurs the line between customers and violators, and “everyone wants to refer to a ‘customer’ or ‘former customer,’” he said. “When do they become a scofflaw?”

He suggested a violations process with the following stages:

• Fees and fines
• Prohibition from using the tollway
• Registration blocking
• Driver’s license suspension
• Booting and towing
• Traffic citation
• Lawsuit and judgement
• Shame and embarrassment.

The panelist said public shaming works. “All the feedback we see is the kind of press you hope for,” he said. “Just be sure not to shame and embarrass the wrong person.”

This year the annual meeting in July 21-23 in Denver CO.  Here is the agenda

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Framing the WorldPosted July 8, 2013 – AGENDA 21 ALERT: PUBLIC- PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

By Cassandra Anderson, based on an interview with Joan Veon

VIDEO CREDITS: www.framingtheworld.com * Staring: Joan Veon * Camera: Paul Wittenberger * Edited: Paul Wittenberger * Date: November 05, 2009

For a wealth of information on PPP’s and related topics, please visit Ms. Veon’s website at www.womensgroup.org.

Joan Veon is an author, journalist and expert on globalization; she also hosted her own radio talk show and is a successful businesswoman. In these 2 videos she explains the mechanism by which corporations gain power over all levels of government: local, county, state, federal, foreign and the United Nations, thus creating corporate fascism, on a global level.

Public- Private Partnerships are one of the most effective tools that are used by the globalists to implement Agenda 21 Sustainable Development, with the goal of destroying the structure of governments that represent the people, and puts profits and resources in the hands of those private interests.

The public part of the Public- Private Partnership (PPP) is the government, which becomes corrupted and no longer represents the taxpayers, when it accepts funding from private interests. Further, the government becomes silent against abuses to the public when they have been compromised by PPP business arrangements, and, worse yet, may also sell off resources and utilities that were owned by the taxpayers. The government does this because they are broke and more taxation is unpopular.

The private part of the PPP is often a combination of these entities: * Corporations (usually multinational) * Foundations (like Rockefeller) * Associations * Universities * Any entity with a lot of money * Non-Governmental Agencies (NGO’s). NGO’s are usually environmental agencies, like the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy.

The private stakeholder in the business arrangement always has profit as its goal, not service. Service was formerly the role of the representative government. The assets that once belonged to the taxpayers are then transferred to private interests, in a transfer of wealth through the assets, to private parties that seek profit at any price. Frequently, deceit, deception and distortion are used to fleece the taxpayer into this ‘solution’ for governments that are broke.

American local, county, state and the federal governments have gone broke and are ripe for the sale of their assets to PPP’s because of deficit spending, and a lack of economic common sense. John Maynard Keynes promoted deficit spending to Roosevelt as a way to escape the Depression. This results in diluted government and loss of power.

Ms. Veon reports that the only way to combat this is: * being alert and recognizing this scam * understanding the structure and intent of the PPP * taking action by exposing the PPP deceit at government meetings

AGENDA 21 ALERT: PUBLIC- PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS Part 1 of 2

AGENDA 21 ALERT: PUBLIC- PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS Part 2 of 2

Time WarnerRecorded/Aired July 2 (Posted July 4)
Speak Up Charlotte Hosted by Jim, Puckett
This week Sharon Hudson explains the HOT Lane issue, what is at stake, and the politics and implications for North Carolina.

Time WarnerRecorded/Aired June 18 (Posted July 1)
Speak Up Charlotte Hosted by Jim, Puckett
This week’s interview with Kurt Naas and John Aneralla regarding HOT Lanes and Toll Roads

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Charlotte ObserverJune 27  On Houston visit, Charlotte leaders ponder Texas-sized transportation questions

HOUSTON Here in the nation’s fourth-largest city, many of the transportation debates Charlotte faces seem to be settled already.

Toll roads are an accepted part of life. Light-rail lines are being expanded. And a 1-cent sales tax seems to be doing the job in getting transportation needs funded.

But during a panel discussion Thursday, Houston transportation officials told a delegation of visiting Charlotte leaders that this Texas city’s transportation system still faces challenges while trying to keep pace with a growing region.

The Charlotte officials, visiting on the latest stop of the Charlotte Chamber’s fact-finding tour of other cities, said Houston’s transportation system seems to be doing a better job keeping up with growth.

Debate, for instance, has been raging in Charlotte about building toll lanes on Interstate 77 between uptown and the Lake Norman area. The state Department of Transportation intends to hire a company this fall to finance, design, build and operate toll lanes.

Lake Norman-area residents, angry about paying tolls to use the major artery through their area, remain opposed to the plan.

Peter Key, director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority, said his agency oversees five toll highways in the Houston region. Houston has three outer belts, the last two being toll roads. Commuters have come to accept the concept, he said, as long as they have free highways to use as an (often less speedy) alternative.

Still, he said overseeing toll roads often feels more like running an e-commerce company than a transportation operation. He said much time is spent trying to get tolls and payments from nonpaying motorists.

“A lot of people just had inflated expectations that if you have a highway and you string some fancy equipment over it the money will just roll in, but it just doesn’t work that way,” he said. “It can be a logistical nightmare.”

Many officials from Charlotte had questions about whether partnerships with private developers can help get projects done. Tom Lambert, head of Houston’s METRO transportation agency, suggested such partnerships can be tricky.

He said his agency has allowed private companies to build, design, finance and operate projects in the past. However, it has trimmed back to simply allowing private firms to build and design instead because public workers can oversee the other functions better.

Davidson Mayor Pro Tem Brian Jenest, head of the chamber’s transportation committee, told Houston leaders their city might be bigger, “but our transportation challenges are every bit as big as yours.”

He referred to the fight over toll lanes on I-77 as “a bloodbath.”

Charlotte-area transit projects are mainly funded through a half-cent sales tax approved in 1998. But officials say the recession has left the Charlotte Area Transit System with a massive shortfall.

A transit funding task force launched by Mayor Anthony Foxx has estimated CATS will need to find $3.3 billion to build its remaining transit corridors, and $1.7 billion more to operate and maintain the lines through 2024.

The task force has suggested adding another half-cent to the sales tax, but City Council member David Howard said Thursday’s panel discussion showed the region needs to explore all options for funding.

“I think where we’re landing is we want to use all these private investment opportunities we’ve discussed to the best of our ability before we go to the public,” he said afterward. “Make it the best deal, and then ask the public to partner.”

Locke Foundation(Someone asked – Widen I77 found…)

Published in 2012 Posted June 25, 2013 Gas Tax Allocation

In March 2012, a new survey of the state line separating North and South Carolina resulted in 93 property owners being sent, as it were, into the other state. One of the affected properties was a gas station formerly in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. Upon his business being found to operate in North Carolina, the station owner told media he would probably have to close it — in part because he could no longer sell fireworks, but also because gas in N.C. costs about a quarter more per gallon.

It’s no secret that North Carolina has the highest gasoline tax in the region. Drivers here going on long road trips are encouraged to wait till they cross state lines, regardless of direction, before filling up. Contrary to public expectation, not all of those tax revenues go into road and highway needs.

Key Facts

  • For the first half of 2012, North Carolina’s tax on gasoline was 39.2 cents per gallon (cpg). The 2012 budget bill adjusted and capped the rate at 37.5 cents.
  • North Carolina’s gasoline tax rate ranked 6th highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. It was also the highest in the South.
  • The rates for neighboring states were these: South Carolina, 16.8 cpg (47th in the nation); Virginia, 19.8 cpg (40th); Tennessee, 21.4 cpg (36th); Georgia, 29.4 cpg (18th).
  • True entrepreneurship, which is about spotting opportunities for profit in the market, is what lifts economies out of recessions and creates jobs.
  • North Carolina’s gas tax rate is higher than South Carolina and Virginia’s combined, or even South Carolina and Tennessee’s combined. It is almost as high as the the combined rates of Virginia and Tennessee.
  • Including the federal tax of 18.4 cpg, North Carolina drivers will pay 55.9 cpg for the remainder of 2012. In other words, each gallon of gasoline sold in North Carolina nets well over half a dollar in tax revenue for the state and federal governments.
  • About one-fourth of highway funds are diverted annually into other, non-highway expenditures, and an increasing proportion of the highway funds are spent on planning and other pre-construction activities. These include such items as ferries, railroads, public transportation, and other non-road-related expenditures.
  • Of the eight state highway funding distribution programs examined by transportation expert David T. Hartgen in 2010, only one (Contract Resurfacing) allocated funds based on need. Major funds made allocations based on geography or discretion.
  • A new “Mobility Fund” approved in 2010 would allocate highway funds to transportation projects considered of “statewide or regional significance” and would prioritize reducing travel times “across transportation modes” — but that means eligible projects for the fund include non-highway projects with low commuter demand such as rail transit.
  • Unlike in many states, there is no county-based road system in North Carolina. Municipalities manage urban roads, and the state manages roads between municipalities.
  • North Carolina is among the bottom states in the nation in road funding per mile.
  • Since the early 2000s, after years of decline, the state’s roads have improved on some performance measures.
  • With the state’s gas tax already high, it is neither wise nor feasible to meet additional highway funding needs through higher taxes. Hartgen found that the state could meet those needs through better prioritization of projects (using such needs-based measures as congestion, condition, accident rates, and traffic).

Recommendations

  1. Stop spending highway funds on non-highway, non-pavement expenditures. North Carolina drivers should not pay one of the nation’s highest gasoline tax rates to add to the General Fund or subsidize alternative modes of transportation with political rather than public support.
  2. Change funding formulas to focus highway spending on need. This recommendation requires deciding the best ways to measure highway needs — i.e., through measuring congestion, road condition, accident rates, traffic, etc. — to allow for a more judicious management of existing highway funds.  (The article came from here)

Charlotte Observer.

June 24, 2013

Legislator proposes $50 hike in vehicle registration fee to improve roads

A state legislator is proposing a $50 hike in North Carolina’s annual vehicle registration fee, which he said would generate $437 million a year to improve and expand roads and prevent tolls on Interstates 77 and 95.

“That $50 a year is money I’d rather see people keep,” State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Mooresville said in a June 21 statement announcing his plan.

“However, compared to the options of not doing this, $50 a year will be a lot less than increased gas taxes or HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes that cost the public and truckers thousands of dollars a year.”

North Carolina’s annual license plate fee is $28 for private passenger vehicles and for private trucks under 4,000 pounds.

Brawley also proposes reducing state-mandated vehicle inspections from every year to every two years, which would save drivers an average $14 a year, he said.  Read more here

Mooresville TribuneJune 23, 2013

Brawley: Raise tag fee to avoid toll lanes

N.C. Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville is proposing a $50 increase in the cost of an annual vehicle registration in North Carolina as a way to increase highway funds – thereby generating enough money to widen I-77 without adding toll lanes.

Brawley told the Tribune that increasing the standard license tag renewal fee from $28 to $78 would create an additional half-billion dollars a year for road construction.

“Tolls are not the answer,” he said. “This is a better solution.”  Read more here

ConstitutionalWarPublished on Jun 19, 2013  Posted June 20

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Isreal Balderas Fired for this report on Bill Brawley and Toll Roads.

This is Israel Balderas’ last report for Fox News Charlotte even though he had months left on his contract. Until now it had been scrubbed from the internet. Fox news Charlotte is owned by 9th district rep Robert Pittenger’s wife, Robert owns a lot of the land along the proposed “Garden Parkway” which he and his wife stand to make many millions off of when they sell to you the tax payer. State rep Bill Brawley has made it clear he wants Pittenger to have his pay day as well as Parsons Brinkeroff and their Toll Roads on I 77.

ConstitutionalWar.

Published on Jun 11, 2013  Posted June 20

Constitutional War.org caught up with Robert Brawley at this years NC GOP state convention and asked him about his being removed from the finance committee, Toll Roads, and about the chance of him being censured with pressure coming from the speaker.

And this is video of what Rep Brawley was referring to

Bacons Rebellion

June 17  Where’re My Cars, Dude?

(begins with much the same as DCStreetsBlog two articles below) … (then)…  What it means to Virginia. Virginia and its private-sector partners have made a huge commitment to HOT lanes — both for the recently opened Capital Beltway and the I-95 project under construction. The Downtown-Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk also varies toll prices by time of day.

No one has officially acknowledged it yet but I’m willing to bet that toll revenues on the Capital Beltway express lanes are running below expectations. According to a Public Works Financing newsletter article published in 2007, the project was expected to generate $335,000 daily in toll revenue by 2015. That’s roughly $10 million monthly or $30 million quarterly. While the 495 expressways are still in their ramp-up stage, they have a long way to go.

In their first quarter of reported results, Capital Beltway Express LLC reported total revenue of $828,000. As Washington-area drivers became more aware of the expressway option, traffic volume picked up considerably. The quarter ending March 31, 2013 yielded $2,475,000 in revenues. “Consistent with other express lane facilities, the 495 Express Lanes are still within the expected ramp-up period with both usage and pricing expected to increase progressively over time,” the report stated.

Please note what the report did not say: It did not say that traffic volumes and revenue were meeting forecasts. Revenue must quadruple within two years to meet expectations.  Read more here

A Short ChronicleJune 17 Disecting the Pro-HOT Lanes Arguments at the NCGOP Exec Committee Meeting

The good folks over at PunditHouse.com posted audio last week covering the debate on HOT Lanes from the previous Sunday’s NCGOP Executive Committee meeting.  It’s about 30 minutes long but well worth a listen.

At stake was an official resolution by the State Republican Party against HOT Lanes providing more emphasis to the anti-HOT plank already added to the Party Platform.

Two arguments against the resolution were made by former NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes and NC House Speaker Thom Tillis.  The arguments provide a glimpse into why it is so very important that grassroots activists keep bringing up issues, keep fighting for the what they believe, and don’t take “no” for an answer.  This applies to HOT Lanes, but it also certainly applies to other issues as well.

Taken together, these arguments amount to saying to the party faithful…

“Don’t rock the boat. We know what’s best for you.  If you think otherwise, you’re not being faithful to the Party.”  Read more here

DC Streets OrgJune 17 If Drivers Won’t Pay to Bypass Congestion, Why Should Taxpayers?

HOT Funding ActualA pilot project to bring high occupancy/toll lanes to State Route 167 in metro Seattle has grossly deviated from projections, raising questions about the value of added road capacity.

High-occupancy toll lanes outside Seattle aren’t attracting as many drivers and as much money as expected. Image: Sightline

The 10 miles of priced lanes — the only “HOT” lanes in the Pacific Northwest — were converted from HOV lanes in 2008 and cost $18 million to implement. Five years later, Seattle-based sustainability think tank Sightline Institute reports that usage and toll revenue on the lanes are far lower than anticipated. Last year, the lanes collected about one-third the revenue of the most conservative predictions from the Washington Department of Transportation. The state had planned to expand “hot” lanes around the state, but the experience with SR 167 could change that, the News Tribune reports.

Two factors seem to be at play: People are driving less, and they aren’t as willing to pay their way out of congestion as was assumed.  Read more here

Daily HaymakerJune 15  Toll Roads: We said ‘No, thanks.’ Speaker Thom & co. gave them to us anyway.

Talk about cojones.  chutzpah.  BIG ONES.  Last weekend, delegates to the NCGOP state convention spoke out loud and clear against HOT lanes, toll roads, and anything else of that kind.     (Here’s some audio from the convention where Speaker Thom Tillis argued passionately in favor of pay-to-drive HOT lanes.)

This week, the NC House approved a $20.6 budget billion — with one Republican voting NO, and two Democrats voting YES.  State Rep. Robert Brawley was the lone dissenter on the budget (which spends roughly $400 million more than Bev Perdue’s LAST budget).

Why did Brawley break with his GOP colleagues on this big vote?  One of our sources emailed Brawley to find out.  Here’s what Brawley had to say:

$1,404,739,602 next year for Toll roads

Wow.  That’s 1/20th of the entire annual budget for state government, boys and girls.  Here’s an email from one of the legislature’s policy analysts to Brawley:  Read more here

Daily HaymakerJune 15  Budget brouhaha: NCGOP leaders accepting Dem premise we have revenue, not spending problem.

The GOP majority on Jones Street has passed budget  packages.  The House and Senate versions are both in the ballpark of $20.6 billion (hundreds of millions higher than Bev Perdue’s last budget).

Mainly, the chambers are differing on spending priorities:

Transportation.   Gov. Pat has described himself as “An Eisenhower Republican,” saying that he admires Ike because he built the interstates.  It appears legislators are intent on supporting Gov. Pat’s aggressive transportation agenda, which includes light rail, new roads, and — apparently — toll roads.  State Rep. Bob Brawley says the new budget includes nearly $1.5 billion to fund the implementation of toll roads. Read more here

Pundit HouseJune 13  The Great Quorum Conspiracy: Secret Audio from HOT Lane Discussion at NCGOP Convention

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Early this morning, a PunditHouse source provided us with the audio from the now famous Executive Committee debate on an anti-HOT lane resolution during this past weekend’s NCGOP Convention.

There have been several stories posted to date regarding the shenanigans that led to the resolution not passing the committee.  This post by Kurt Naas of WidenI77.org and this post from the Dailyhaymaker outline what we like to call “Fun with Quorum Calls: Lessons on Bringing Debate to an End when Failure is Imminent”.

Here is a brief synopsis of some key time frames in this audio snippet.

Opening: Adam Love moves the resolution to the floor.
1:55 – Former NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes objects to consent
2:20 – Adam Love gives opening speech in support of the resolution
3:05 – Obvious cheers of support from the crowd
5:32 – Robin Hayes speaks against the resolution, citing desire for no Party involvement in pending legislative matters
8:30 – Thom Tillis gives 5 minute speech in favor of HOT lanes
15:30 – First Quorum Call
20:45 – Achieving Quorum, debate continues with one speaker against the resolution
23:51 – Upon Tillis’ departure, another quorum call is made. This time quorum is not met, and the meeting is ended.

Charlotte ObserverJune 13  New transportation money formula clears N.C. Senate

The Senate gave bipartisan approval Thursday to the first rewrite in 24 years of a legislative blueprint for spreading state and federal transportation construction dollars across North Carolina.

The Strategic Mobility Formula scraps the 1989 Highway Trust Fund Act and sets new guidelines for making the best use of money for statewide, regional and local projects. It was proposed in April by Gov. Pat McCrory and reflects his push to link infrastructure improvements with economic development.

It won preliminary Senate approval in a 42-5 vote after Republican sponsors adopted changes, sought by Triangle Democrats, to upgrade state priorities for regional transit service, passenger trains and bicycle and pedestrian projects. After a final floor vote Monday, the bill will return to the House – where it passed on a 102-15 vote last month – for concurrence on minor Senate changes.

“This bill is a new plan for transportation,” said Sen. Kathy Harrington, a Gastonia Republican who co-chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. “We’ve worked hard to see all regions of the state have more opportunities than ever to fund all modes of transportation.”  Read more here

Beaufort ObserverJune 11

What happened in Charlotte does no bode well for the Republican Elite

(Lead in)….. it was obvious at last weekend’s state GOP Convention that there is much disagreement between the grassroots and the Elites. And the vehicles that is hauling that disagreement is the person of House Speaker Thom Tillis, who has announced that he will run against Kay Hagan for the U. S. Senate in 2014. The designer of the Convention Program called him “our candidate.” But judging from delegate response, the favorite candidate now is Greg Brannon, as a grassroots/TEA party/Liberty candidate running on traditional conservative principles.

One of the dominant issues in Charlotte was toll roads. Tillis is viewed as the primary mover on toll roads. For some insight into that issue, and indeed a prime exhibit of the “grassroots vs. Elites” division one need only review the blog Widen I-77 which is subtitled: “A Citizen’s Group Dedicated to Widening I-77 with General Purpose Lanes.” As you read the debate about how to renovate the interstate running north out of Charlotte, remember the Grassroots vs Elites dichotomy.  Read more here

Cornelius TodayJune 11

All five of Cornelius’ elected officials live on the west side

(Article begins with Commissioners home values)…..   Commissioners and the mayor strive mightily to ensure that town spending and priorities are balanced east and west, but with a challenging election season getting under way in less than a month, it appears unlikely the four members of the Town Board will decide on a fifth commissioner to fill the seat previously held by Rinker until she became mayor. (In January Rinker replaced former Mayor Jeff Tarte, who was elected to the state Senate last fall.)

When asked via email whether they would seek re-election, only Gilroy responded with a crisp “yup.” Local candidate filing opens at noon on the day after Independence Day. Of course, there could be some shuffling in who runs for what office.

Rinker said she and her husband are discussing whether she will run for mayor.

Meanwhile, the leaders of wideni77.org, the citizens group opposing toll lanes for I-77, are actively recruiting a slate of Cornelius candidates who will take on the incumbents who have come out in favor of the toll solution.

Political tension
The situation just a month before filing opens is markedly different from two years ago. Then, Mayor Jeff Tarte ran unopposed for a third term, and there was a show of solidarity when most of the incumbents — but not Gilroy — traveled to the Board of Elections in Charlotte to file together.

But in recent weeks Mayor Rinker has cast the tie-breaking vote when Dave Gilroy and Jeff Hare lined up against John Bradford and Travis. Rinker cast her lot with Bradford and Travis on two key votes: Appointing a fifth commissioner and declaring support for widening I-77 with the help of a public-private partnership, which means toll lanes operated by a private company.

The I-77 debate is apparently mobilizing potential candidates in the non-partisan town elections.

Wideni77.org leader Kurt Naas is actively recruiting potential candidates to oppose Travis, Bradford and Rinker in the fall. Naas himself, a Cornelius resident and Concord business owner, said he will not run.

Gilroy said the finance methods used to widen I-77 in Lake Norman will be a conservative “litmus test” for Republican voters. Gilroy and Hare are opposing toll lanes for I-77, while Travis and Bradford have come out in favor of them, saying tolls are the best way to get the interstate widened sooner rather than later.

The fifth commissioner   Read more here:

A Short Chronicle June 10  Speaker Tillis Leads Walkout to Scuttle Quorum on NCGOP HOT Lanes Vote

Maybe it was an attempt to avoid another vote against plans to bring more tolls to North Carolina, or maybe it was just a sheer power play to show who’s “boss”, but what happened at Sunday’s NCGOP Executive Committee meeting on the last afternoon of the annual State Convention certainly was not pretty.

After checking with multiple sources in the room at the meeting, it is safe to say that when it became clear the vote on a resolution opposing HOT Lanes was likely not going to go his way, Speaker Thom Tillis left the room taking enough delegates with him to break quorum and effectively shut down the meeting.

By all accounts, the move appeared intended – even coordinated – to achieve that exact result.  Two quorum calls came minutes apart.  The first achieved a result of one over quorum.  The second, mere minutes later, came immediately after the Speaker and a few others left the room.  The second call was even contested as being “dilatory”.  Read more here

Charlotte ObserverJune 10

NC Republicans ignore Tillis, say no to tolls

Opponents of planned Interstate 77 toll lanes are celebrating after the N.C Republican Party added language opposing state highway tolls to its 2013-14 party platform.

The party’s executive committee voted overwhelmingly against tolls Sunday on the final day of the state Republican convention at the Charlotte Convention Center. The vote represented a defeat for Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Cornelius, who spoke in favor of tolls, according to several party delegates.  Read more here

Daily HaymakerJune 9  When things get HOT, Tholl Road Thom takes his marbles and goes home

Today’s developments at the Republican State Convention.

This was supposed to be a great weekend for Thom Tillis.  He’s presiding over the state House at a historic time for the NCGOP.  The state GOP convention was in his neck of the woods.  He got a prime speaking slot to debut himself as  a US Senate candidate.  But those @#*!*$% Tea Partiers had to show up and drop a big ol’ stink bomb on TT’s party.

As many of you — who faithfully read this blog — already know, ol’ Thom has been knocking heads lately with a group called Widen I-77 over the controversial plan to establish a pay-to-drive lane on that highway in Mecklenburg County.  Tillis has tried to deflect some of the criticism by saying critics need to direct their concerns to local authorities.  

Nevertheless, critics of pay-to-drive HOT lanes showed up in force at this weekend’s NCGOP convention to build support for their efforts.  They went before the NCGOP executive committee, where we had a number of pairs of eyes and ears in place.  Read the rest of the article here…. Tillis walked out, he really did……

BlogtalkradioJune 7 (June 3) Toll is a Four Letter Word for TAX! Stop Toll Abuse Now!

http://www.AmericanStatesman.org sits down with Special Guest North Carolina Representative Robert Brawley (R) adamantly opposes toll taxes and will do what it takes to shut-down toll roads in North Carolina…   Listen Here

Rep Brawley resigned as chair of the House Finance Committee. In his resignation letter addressed one of his great concerns; Rep Brawley stated “Toll Roads are just another way of taxing. I fought them during Democratic administrations because I felt like the Democrats were just trying to use another financing scheme to build something they could take credit for while passing the debt on to future generations.”

During an interview with NBC Charlotte, Rep. Brawley stated “My general opposition to toll roads is I feel we, the consuming public, are paying twice (with tolls).”

Legislator Opposed I-77 Tolls – “Brawley said the state could use the $170 million it plans to put toward the toll project for new general-purpose lanes that could be built for $100 million or less.” Read more here

Beaufort ObserverJune 4 (May 30)  What’s this about Republicans trying to raise taxes, ah, make that tolls?

The NC House last week passed a bill that provides for the addition of tolls to certain roads in North Carolina. We can’t tell you precisely which roads because the legislature left that up to the bureaucrats and the Department of Transportation, in spite of the fact that Beaufort County Representative Mike Speciale argued strongly that the legislature should decide which road would be tolled.

The decision is one of the most controversial that has hit the General Assembly this year and indeed may be a rallying point against Speaker Thom Tillis if he decides to run for office again.  Here’s the simple breakdown of the issue.  Read entire article

Washington TimesJune 4 (from Dec 2011) – A very appropriate oldie. EDITORIAL: Nobody wants toll lanes

It takes a certain kind of genius to come up with the most unpopular idea in all of politics. A few years ago, Virginia’s then-Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, developed a scheme to lease part of Interstate 95 to an Australian company so it could impose a tax on the commonwealth’s drivers for the next 75 years. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, is prepared to give final approval to this misguided high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane proposal. Before he does so, he ought to talk to his Georgia counterpart.

A nearly identical project was implemented two months ago on Interstate 85 in the Peach State, and it proved a disaster. Just 4 percent of the public told InsiderAdvantage pollsters they thought the lanes were effective. The support was below the survey’s 5 percent margin of error – something that never happens. “I poll all over the country, and I have never seen an issue that people hated as much as this,” InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery told The Washington Times. “The people who make money off of it are real happy about it, but the rest of the people, they hate it.”  Read entire article

WBT RadioMay 31 – from May 28 – Doc Washburn talks Toll Lanes with Christian Hine  Listen

May 30 – from May 27 – Doc Washburn talks HOT Lanes with Iredell Rep. Robert Brawley  Listen

May 26 – from Keith Larson Show Thurs May 23 – Foxx, Cicadas and Toll Roads  Listen

Pundit HouseMay 30, 2013  HOT Lane Proponents Disguise Truth

It is said that if you tell a lie over and over again, eventually you start believing it yourself.

This is clearly happening in the continued debate over high occupancy toll lanes (HOT lanes).

How many times have we been told that without the use of HOT lanes, widening on I-77 with general purpose lanes will take “25 years”?  That “there are no other options”?

Let’s list a few. Read Article

Herald WeeklyMay 30, 2013  MUMPO approves the I-77 HOT lanes project

The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Transportation Organization unanimously gave the green light to the toll lanes project on Interstate 77.

The group, charged with setting transportation priorities for the Charlotte region, voted to include the high-occupancy toll lanes project to its short- and long-term plans.

Dozens of Lake Norman residents attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the project. Several carried signs with messages like “Stop the Tillis Tolls” and “We Beg for Mercy. No More Tax.”

The group erupted into chants of “First Amendment” and “Democracy” after being told that they would be collectively limited to 10 minutes of public comment, prompting MUMPO to bring in security. Individuals stood up and demanded to be heard, but Huntersville Commissioner and MUMPO Chairwoman Sarah McAuley said that no one would be able to speak to the board at that point.

Kurt Naas, founder of Widen I-77, the community group leading the movement against HOT lanes, told the Herald Weekly, “We were not surprised by last night’s vote, but we were shocked by Sarah McAulay’s blatant disregard for the people she is supposed to represent.”  Read Article

Mooresville TribuneMay 25, 2013 (Updated)  Toll lane foes vow to keep fighting

Opponents of a plan to build special toll lanes on Interstate 77 between Mooresville and Charlotte say they will keep fighting, despite a pair of crushing blows to their hopes last week.

“We will continue to fight the toll lane plan until the pavement is poured,” said Vallee Bubak, an organizer and spokesperson for WidenI77.org, a group that advocates the building of general purpose lanes instead of toll lanes.

“The state senate still needs to approve the bill to make it lawful to toll on I-77, so we will work with the senate to encourage them to represent ‘We the People’ and do the right thing – for the citizens and for the state’s financial health.”  Read entire article

Winston Salem JournalMay 24, 2013  Lawmakers give green light to I-77 tolls

A leading Republican lawmaker – and a senior transportation department official – said Thursday that work on new Interstate 77 toll lanes could start next year.

Jim Trogdon, the transportation department’s chief operating officer, said officials hope to open bids in August with construction starting in 2014.

And Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews, who co-chairs the House Transportation Committee, said lawmakers have come to see toll lanes as “the least bad answer” to congestion on the busy interstate. Backups that extend for miles are common.

(more leading to)… “Based on the information before me, if we’re going to get any widening of I-77 in the foreseeable future, it’s with HOT lanes,” said Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican. “The HOT lane concept, while it is not perfect, you can’t let great be the enemy of the good.”  Read more here

Daily HaymakerMay 24, 2013  Tholl roads. Thime Warner. Thom Tillis. (THROUBLE ???) 

Big Barry in DC and Speaker Thom are getting a real taste of what Tricky Dick Nixon went through in 1974. * It sure blows when people start raising a stink about your heavy-handed iron-fisted management style. *

For some reason, Speaker Thom and his Cornelius cronies are working overtime to shove toll roads down the throats of the people in Mecklenburg County.  Something sure changed ol’ Thom’s mind since last year — when he was filmed making THESE anti-toll statements.    Instead of listening to his constituents’ concerns about the proposed tolls, Speaker Thom and his crew have worked hard to shut them up and shut them out.

Theam Tillis also pushed through a bill allowing tolls on I-95, and worked hard to kill an amendment forcing the House to vote on implementation of ANY new toll roads.  Read entire Article

Herald WeeklyMay 23, 2013  New state transportation legislation on the horizon

I-77 general purpose lane advocates get a shot in the arm.

Whether or not the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization votes to send the Interstate 77 HOT lanes plan to the bidding stage, one local state representative says the rules in Raleigh are changing.

Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius said that he believed Gov. Pat McCrory’s newly proposed “Strategic Mobility Fund” could reopen I-77 discussions.

According to the NCDOT’s website, the Strategic Mobility Fund, which replaces the Equity Formula created in 1989, will focus on “projects that address traffic congestion and bottlenecks of regional or statewide significance will receive 40 percent of the available revenue, totaling $6.4 billion over 10 years.”

“It’s not agreed on yet. It’s what’s being put forward to potentially be the answer,” Tarte said. “Population, things that alleviate congestion, travel times – they should be factors in the formula. How soon that formula gets adopted, I think it will happen in the next few months.”  Read article

ConstitutionalWarMay 23, 2013   What really happened?  Watch the video

Herald WeeklyMay 23, 2013  MUMPO silences Lake Norman residents who came to oppose HOT lanes

The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization called security on a group of Lake Norman residents at a meeting tonight in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

Dozens of Lake Norman residents, including members of the group Widen I-77, came to voice their opposition to the HOT lanes project on Interstate 77.

After the group was told by the MUMPO board that they would be limited to ten minutes collectively, citizens started to chant “boo” and “first amendment.”

At that point Charlotte City Council at-large Elect and MUMPO board member David Howard asked that security be brought in.

Many individuals stood up and demanded to be heard, but MUMPO Chair and Huntersville Commissioner Sarah McAuley said that no one would be able to speak to the board at that point.

The majority of the citizens left the meeting in disgust Read entire article and photo’s

Pundit HouseMay 22, 2013  Mecklenburg HOT Lanes Conflict of Interest

Parsons-Brinckerhoff, the consultant supporting HOT lanes on I-77, just so happens to have a hand in the game to profit from HOT lane implementation! This question to Representative Robert Brawley about sums up the audience reaction to this news.

WCNC

May 22, 2013

Video with partner Charlotte Observer story

Charlotte ObserverMay 22, 2013  I-77 toll lanes approved despite angry crowd’s objections

An angry crowd of Interstate 77 toll-lane opponents booed and shouted down members of the agency that sets Charlotte area road priorities Wednesday night.

But in the end, the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization voted unanimously to amend the agency’s current and long-range transportation plans to include the $550 million project.

The vote means the N.C Department of Transportation will now move forward with the planned toll lanes on the heavily traveled stretch from Charlotte to Mooresville.

The only way the project could be stopped is if the General Assembly steps in and votes to reverse its 2012 approval of the project.

Cornelius commissioner Chuck Travis, who serves on the road planning panel, said the I-77 toll-lane project will serve as a model for similar public-private partnerships to finance highway expansions elsewhere across the state given limited public dollars.

But opponents have long argued that the state should add general purpose lanes, which they contend would cost far less. Widen I-77 – a citizens group opposed to the tolls – contends that Lake Norman area commuters would bear the brunt of the cost because they’d be the biggest users of the toll lanes.

Members of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization – or MUMPO – are elected officials from Charlotte and surrounding cities and towns and Mecklenburg and Union counties.

A state Department of Transportation official also gets a vote. Because of its size, Charlotte’s vote counts for 16 of the 38 votes on the panel.

‘That is shameful’

Before Wednesday night’s vote, the crowd of about 40 erupted in shouts when Huntersville commissioner Sarah McAulay, the MUMPO chairwoman, said toll-lane opponents would have only 10 minutes total to state their case.

“That is shameful!” Mark Neroni of Cornelius shouted to members of the panel. “This is a democracy. That is unfair.”

When toll-lane opponent Kurt Naas of Cornelius told the panel that everyone in the crowd deserved a chance to speak, McAulay responded: “Your time is up.”

“Let us speak! Let us speak! Let us speak!” the crowd chanted over and over.

The angry reaction prompted David Howard, the Charlotte City Council’s representative on the road planning agency, to call for security. “This is not respectful to the process at all,” Howard told the crowd.

Opponents then walked out of the meeting room at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, leaving only the panel and three audience members,  Read entire article

Charlotte ObserverMay 21, 2013   Key vote set on I-77 tolls Wednesday

The federally designated agency that ranks Charlotte area road priorities is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether the state should move forward with its planned $550 million Interstate 77 toll lane project from Charlotte to Mooresville.  Read article

WBT RadioMay 21, 2013  Vallee Bubak with Doc Washburn >> listen  — Doc asks Thom Tillis to come on the program and discuss the plan.

May 20, 2013  I-77 toll opponents gear up ahead of vote to move project forward.

More opponents have come forward to a plan to put toll lanes on I-77 as regional transportation planners prepare to vote on whether to move ahead with the project.

Several local area and state politicians Sunday announced or renewed their opposition to plans for the privately-operated toll lanes from Uptown Charlotte to Exit 36 in Mooresville, including Cornelius commissioner Dave Gilroy. He wants more attention paid to their alternative to tolls, more I-77 general purpose lanes.

“You do due diligence on, at least, two options,” he said during a news conference after meeting with members of a Lake Norman area citizens group opposed to the state’s $550 million toll plan.  “We gotta have a general purpose lane option on the table. We can’t just sleepwalk our way into contracting for these tolls road,” he said.

Also Sunday, Cabarrus County state rep. Larry Pittman became the second Charlotte area lawmaker to come out against tolls, arguing they’re a financial burden and a double tax on citizens.  Read entire article

A Short ChronicleMay 19, 2013 Red Line project gets quiet boost from Raleigh. More to come?

Earlier this month, aShortChronicle reported on a statement by a reporter at a May 5th press conference on the I-77 Hot Lanes.  That statement was “the folks in Davidson were told, ‘get behind us and we’ll do the Red Line'”.   (See  “Threats, promises, and holes in the HOT lanes dike…” for the full story.)

That statement was made as part of a question asked by Israel Balderas, formerly of WCCB Charlotte.  One week after this press conference it was announced that Balderas no longer worked for the station.

In the days following that press conference and after this post on the WidenI77.org website, there was a spirited back and forth via email between Davidson Board members and WidenI77.org.  Both aShortChronicle and DavdisonNews.net were copied on the email exchanges.  Read entire article

Charlotte ObserverMay 19, 2013  A second Charlotte-area state representative on Sunday announced his opposition to planned Interstate 77 toll lanes.

“When you’re driving down a road that you already paid for, you shouldn’t be taxed again with a toll,” State Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, told members of Widen I-77, a Lake Norman-area citizens group fighting the state’s $550 million toll road plan. The project calls for a private contractor to design, build and operate toll lanes from the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte to I-77 Exit 36 in Mooresville.

At a news conference, Pittman joined State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, Iredell County commissioner Renee Griffith, Cornelius commissioner Dave Gilroy and Huntersville commissioner Danny Phillips, all of whom reiterated their opposition to tolls.

Griffith also serves on a subcommittee of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, which recommends Charlotte-area road priorities to the state.  Read entire article

WCCB

May 19, 2013 More State Leaders Speak Out Against I-77 Toll Lanes

More state and local leaders are speaking out against planned toll lanes on I-77.  State leaders made final pleas Sunday in Mooresville – speaking out against the state’s $550 million dollar toll road plan. There was lot’s of talk about how much will come out of taxpayer’s pocket.

“I don’t think anyone would argue with me… toll roads are tax increases,” said Representative Robert Brawley, R-Iredell.

That’s why Brawley and a handful of other leaders spoke out Sunday against state plans for toll lanes on I-77.

“I don’t believe in being taxed twice for the same piece of road. You’re paying gasoline taxes and now they want to toll you too,” said Representative Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus.  Read entire article (& Video)

WSOCMay 19, 2013

State lawmaker speaks against I-77 toll lanes

The issue over a proposed toll road project along a stretch of Interstate 77 continues to heat up.

In Mooresville on Sunday, the citizens’ group wideni77.org, which opposes the move, turned out to encourage leaders to find another way to deal with the congestion.  Read article and watch video

Daily HaymakerMay 17, 2013

RTP-area toll road lightly used, bleeding money. State: Let’s do SOME MORE !!!

Guess what?  Evidence is suggesting that toll road projects — like the one proposed for I-77 in Mecklenburg County — may not be the budgetary magic bullet that the state bureaucracy is hoping for.  ABC NewsChannel 11 has the story (watch video)

The Triangle Expressway is touted by HOT lane proponents in Mecklenburg County as a success story.  The facts say otherwise.  Revelations like what came out in this news story haven’t done a thing to sway the “conservative revolution” in Raleigh.  The NC House has voted to allow tolls on I-95  and on other major roads in the state.  Read the entire article

Toronto StarMay 17, 2013

The dirty little secret about HOT lanes

In his Toronto Star op-ed , the C.D. Howe Institute’s Benjamin Dachis urges the government to “hang tough” and stick to its risky plan to introduce high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in Ontario. The government should ignore such advice.

To his credit, Dachis does not argue (like the government does) that HOT lanes are a revenue tool for transit. He surely knows that outside of California, such schemes are expensive to build, and routinely lose money. A new 14-mile HOT lane in Washington DC lost over $11 million in just its first six weeks of operation. Read the entire article

Herald WeeklyMay 16, 2013  Davidson voices support for toll lanes

The Davidson town board will send a vote in favor of toll lanes along Interstate 77 at the next Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.

MUMPO’s vote on May 22 will determine if the project will move forward into the bidding stage.  If approved, four public-private partnerships will bid for the contract estimated to cost $550 million.

The proposal is to add four toll lanes (two in both direction) from Charlotte to Cornelius’ Exit 28 and then one additional toll lane in both directions from Exit 28 to Exit 36 in Mooresville.  The topic fueled long conversations and sparked angry citizen emails in Cornelius. On May 5, the Cornelius town board voted 3-2 in favor of the proposal.

Davidson town board didn’t make an official vote, but took a few minutes at the beginning of its May 15 meeting to discuss the decision.

Every member spoke in favor of the projectRead Article

Daily HaymakerMay 15, 2013

The NC House: Seems like Old Times

Deals being cut behind the scenes.  Promising legislators one thing, then pulling the rug out from under them.  Using legislative power to protect powerful outside interests.  Legislators being threatened and punished for daring to speak against “leadership.”  Those were aspects of the SOP during the Richard Morgan-Jim Black reign of terror in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

When the GOP took over on Jones Street in 2011, we got promise after promise about never going back to that garbage.  We were going to see openness and transparency.  The heavy-handedness of the old days was gone for good — or so we were told.    …..

…..Now, we have Speaker Thom Tillis working overtime behind the scenes to push through a very controversial toll road proposal that a huge chunk of his constituents DO NOT want.  Tillis operatives in Raleigh AND in Mecklenburg have been working overtime to stymie grassroots activists simply seeking a dialogue and debate on the whole toll road matter.   Read the entire article

WBT RadioMay 14, 2013

Wideni77.org was interviewed three times in one week, once on the Brad & Britt show and twice on the Doc Washburn show.

.May 10 Kurt Naas & Rep. Robert Brawley with Doc Washburn >> listen
& May 6 Vallee Bubak with Doc Washburn >> listen
& May 6 Vallee with Brad & Britt  >> listen

(Click the listen link, if it doesn’t start on it’s own – click the Play triangle)

UNCC Urban Inst

May 11, 2013  HOT lanes: A hot topic at Huntersville meeting

HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes proposed on I-77 are a red-hot topic, and residents were vocal about their concerns Wednesday at a public information meeting at Huntersville Town Hall.

Jim Trogdon, chief financial officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, introduced a group of experts to meet with citizens and answer questions. “The existing revenue structure is not sustainable,” said Trogdon. “Projections in light of sequestration are even worse,” he said.

From the onset of the meeting there was clear angst in the room. “If you convert to HOT lanes, people will just move to Rock Hill and take their taxes with them,” a voice from the room said loudly. “What we want to know is, where are we in the process? Is the DOT just telling us this is how it’s going to be? Where is the voice of opposition?”  Read more

Widen I-77 comment:  This article includes a map of other proposed HOT lanes in the Charlotte area – U.S. 74 East between Charlotte and Matthews, and I-485 South between Pineville and Matthews, will be the focal study corridors in Phase III. In addition, existing bus lanes on Independence Boulevard are also proposed for conversion to HOT lanes. THE IMPACT OF SETTING PRECEDENT WILL INCLUDE MORE THAN I-77  See Map

Herald WeeklyMay 9, 2013  Cornelius to support toll lanes on I-77

The Cornelius town board decided May 6 to vote in support of the public-private partnership (P3) HOT lanes project along Interstate 77.  Read more

WCCBMay 8, 2013  Matthews Politician Bill Brawley Key To Forced Projects

Stop us if you’ve heard this before:
North Carolina General Assembly Republican legislators want some kind of public project. People impacted by it at the local level say, “please don’t!” But then GOP lawmakers reply with, “tough, we’re doing it anyway!”

Is it:
A) A state takeover of Charlotte’s airport
B) The Garden Parkway in Gaston County.
C) Using private tolls to widen I-77.
Actually, the answer is D) ALL THE ABOVE!    Read more & video

Charlotte ObserverMay 7, 2013  Cornelius toll vote puts drivers in a jam

This cuckoo idea of imposing tolls on Lake Norman commuters got a boost this week when Cornelius Mayor Lynette Rinker broke a 2-2 tie among the city’s commissioners on the issue and voted yes.

With that, the city cast an influential endorsement for the $550 million scheme to gouge motorists for half a century to get an express pass on a highway they already pay for with their fuel taxes.  Read more

Mooresville TribuneMay 7, 2013   Cornelius counters Brawley by endorsing toll lanes

A day after N.C. Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville became the first area legislator to oppose building high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-77 between Mooresville and Charlotte, Cornelius town commissioners countered by endorsing the lanes.

In a split vote Monday, that town board endorsed the state’s plan to building the HOT lanes along more than 20 miles of interstate. The Cornelius vote came 24 hours after Brawley held a press conference in Mooresville to declare his opposition to the HOT lanes and proposed his own plan for building general-purpose lanes on the most-congested, 14-mile stretch of I-77, for less money.   Read more

Pundit House

May 7, 2013    Representative Robert Brawley Joins WidenI77.org Advocates

At a Sunday press conference in Mooresville, NC, State Representative Robert Brawley joined the HOT lane opposition movement WidenI77.org.   Here is the full video from the press conference and Brawley’s written statement.

Business TodayMay 6, 2013      More questions on road to I-77 widening

It looks like there are more bumps in the road for the $550 million plan to widen I-77 between Lake Norman and Charlotte. The Cornelius Town Board will vote on a resolution tonight that would ask the Lake Norman Transportation Commission to “research the feasibility of executing the project” as general purpose lanes.

The board is also expected to ask the LNTC, which is chaired by Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Travis, to “include cost estimates for each project, project timelines, plausible funding options and an outline for regulatory and legislative approvals.”

Travis has said he is in favor of the plan to use tolls to help pay for widening I-77 in the near future. He could not be reached for comment this morning.   Read more

Charlotte ObserverMay 5, 2013  Iredell Rep. Robert Brawley speaks out against I-77 tolls

State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, said Sunday he opposes toll lanes on Interstate 77 – the first state politician to openly oppose the N.C. Department of Transportation’s $550 million plan.

“Our problem with I-77 should be solved by common sense and not grand schemes that place an unfair burden on the public,” Brawley said. “I ask my fellow legislators to join me in saving the taxpayer funds.”  Read more

WSOC

May 5, 2013   State representative changes position on I-77 toll roads

Drivers traveling Interstate 77 could soon have to pay money for road tolls.

The project is expected to be voted into the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization’s official plan at the end of the month.

State Rep. Robert Brawley, who has been strongly in favor of the toll roads, changed his position.  Read more    (video)

WCNCMay 5, 2013  Rep. Robert Brawley now opposes I-77 toll lanes

The debate about HOT lanes is getting hotter – as opponents of toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte won an important advocate to their side.

Rep. Robert Brawley, a Republican House member from Iredell County, announced Sunday he is switching his position to oppose toll lanes to widen I-77 from uptown Charlotte to Highway 150 in Mooresville.

“My general opposition to toll roads is I feel we, the consuming public, are paying twice” with tolls, said Rep. Brawley.  Read more

WCCBMay 5, 2013  GOP Lawmaker Bucks Party Leaders On I-77 Tolls

Traffic along I-77 North through Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties will grow yearly by three percent through 2030.

But suggest to Republican politicians that tax dollars be used to widen the interstate, and citizens are told there is no money available for the entire project. Tolls are the only solution.

A GOP statesman respectively disagrees.  Read more & video

Mooresville TribuneMay 5, 2013   Brawley comes out in opposition to toll lanes on I-77

At a Sunday afternoon press conference, N.C. Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville announced his opposition to a proposed state plan for high-occupancy toll lanes along more than 20 miles of Interstate 77.

Instead of toll lanes, Brawley advocates using dollars already earmarked for those lanes to widen I-77 with general purpose lanes in the stretch with the heaviest congestion, a plan endorsed by the citizen group “WidenI77.org.”
click here!

“There is $170 million of taxpayer money available for the HOT (high occupancy toll) lane proposal as it is presented,” Brawley said at the press conference, held at Fat Boy’s Restaurant in Mooresville in conjunction with WidenI77.

“Therefore, we have the $100 million to add general purpose lanes to the area that needs to be widened. It does not make sense to pay $170 million of taxpayer funds – your money – for a $550 million toll road.”  Read more

A Short ChronicleMay 5, 2013  Threats, promises, and holes in the HOT lanes dike…

Fat Boys in Mooresville may turn out to be the unlikely place where the struggle to stop unwanted HOT lanes in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties took a momentous turn.  Or, what happened there Sunday may turn out to be just another bump in the road before NCDOT, MUMPO/Charlotte, leaders in the General Assembly, and the consultants all get their way over the rising voice of the people.  Whatever the ultimate outcome, the press conference held by Rep Robert Brawley along with members of WidenI77.org ensures this story gets much messier before its conclusion.  Read more

Davidson News NetMay 5, 2013   Mooresville Rep. Brawley joins campaign against I-77 tolls

As a key vote approaches on the NC DOT’s plans to widen I-77 by adding toll lanes, opponents with the group Widen I-77 are still hoping to build a following for their anti-toll cause. On Sunday they hosted a press conference to introduce their latest ally, state Rep. Robert Brawley (R-Mooresville).

The announcement that Brawley has changed his mind and now opposes the plan for High Occupancy Toll lanes, or HOT lanes, is the latest sign of division among area Republicans over the issue. Republican legislative leaders, including House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius, have said the DOT’s proposal is the best option for widening the highway now. But the Mecklenburg Republican Party has come out against HOT lanes, as did the GOP-dominated county commission in Iredell County.

Local officials on the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) are expected to vote May 22 whether to let the DOT’s project proceed.  Read more

WCCBApril 17, 2013   Politicians (MUMPO) Cut Short Group Opposing Tolls

More toll roads are in the works for the Charlotte area.  It’s not just plans for I-77 North moving ahead, but so are I-485 South and Independence Boulevard.

If how politicians have handled the widening project of an important regional interstate is any indication, citizens may not have much of a say about the future of tolls in Mecklenburg County.  Read more & watch video

Pundit HouseApril 16, 2013   WidenI77.org to MUMPO: “Let Us Speak”

In a letter emailed Monday to voting members of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) and the local media, the citizen’s group widenI77.org urged MUMPO to allow them to present a 30 minute presentation explaining why HOT lanes are the wrong way to widen I-77 at their next meeting on Wednesday, April 17th.  Read the letter

Charlotte ObserverApril 15, 2013   Charlotte Tea Party Urges Alternatives to I-77 Toll Lanes

Saying toll lanes will hurt Charlotte area growth, CAUTION, the organizational arm of the Charlotte Tea Party, is asking Mecklenburg County legislators to consider other alternatives for widening the highway from Charlotte to Mooresville.  Read the article

A Short ChronicleApril 14, 2013    Consultants, Consultants, Everywhere…. Is North Carolina Transportation decision making Beholding to Big Consulting.

Big Government, like Big Business, often uses consultants in large decision making and project delivery efforts.  Consultants bring expertise as well as additional manpower to the table.  They certainly can be useful.  However, there are two big differences between when the private sector brings in consultants and when government enlists their services.

Herald WeeklyApril 12, 2013   I-77 Group looks to Raleigh for Help

New to the HOT Lanes discussion? Here’s a quick summary: Most everyone in the region agrees that heavy traffic on Interstate 77 merits an expansion of the highway.

You TubeApril 9, 2013    Governor McCrory: Stop the HOT Lanes

Miles asks “Do you want your legacy to be the ‘Toll Lane Governor’ or the ‘Good Lane Governor’?” See the full video via the link above.

Davidson News NetApril 8, 2013 MUMPO Meetings this week Seek Comment on I-77 HOT Lanes

A formal public comment period is open through April 22 on the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to widen I-77 north of Charlotte by adding high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes. The Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) plans public meetings Wednesday in Huntersville and Thursday in Charlotte as part of its effort to gather input on the plan.

A Short ChronicleApril 7, 2013   Small Business Knows Tolls will be Bad for All Business

You know things are getting serious when businesses are willing to take this kind of a public stand on a political issue.  Typically, they stay neutral out of concern for alienating customers.  The fact that what is arguably the most visible business on Davidson’s Main St does not have that concern is both commendable and telling.

Daily HaymakerApril 6, 2013   Tillis 2012: Tolls are Bad. Tillis 2013: Tolls are Ok

A Mecklenberg County-based grassroots group has released some rather provocative video featuring state House speaker Thom Tillis.  In the video, Tillis can be seen and heard addressing a group of truckers in 2012.

Pundit HouseApril 4, 2013   WidenI77.org Holds Second Townhall Forum

Watch the full video playback from that meeting through the link above.

Locke Foundation

April 3, 2013   I-77 Tolls?

There really is little reason to proceed with the road currently as a toll project. State road policy is under review, and the role of toll roads going forward is uncertain. Traditionally, toll roads were the way powerful legislators could get big-buck projects of often questionable worth built sooner rather than later.

Charlotte ObserverApril 2, 2013     Mecklenburg GOP Opposes Toll Lane Plans

The Mecklenburg County Republican Party is urging elected officials and government agencies to explore options other than toll lanes to widen Interstate 77 from Charlotte to Mooresville.

Davidson News NetApril 1, 2013 Officials make it clear: I-77 Widening will happen, with Toll Lanes

In meeting after meeting in recent months, state and local leaders have said plans are moving forward to widen I-77 north of Charlotte in the next few years by adding toll lanes. Just last week, state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius) told toll-lane opponents at the state capitol that the state’s plan to hire a private company to build and operate high-occupancy toll lanes is happening, and it’s the best option for widening the road soon.

Mooresville WeeklyMarch 29, 2013   Iredell Leaders sound off about Widening I-77

Stephen Johnson, chairman of the Iredell County Board of Commissioners, leveled with his colleagues March 19 about the proposed widening of I-77. He explained that the reason I-77 wasn’t widened decades ago is because when the N.C. Department of Transportation bought the right-of-way for the road, it didn’t buy enough land.

Daily HaymakerMarch 29, 2013   US vs. THEM: “Toll-Road Thom” sticks it to his Constituents

WidenI77.org members traveled to Raleigh under the pretense they would be meeting privately with Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis. Little did they know there was a nasty surprise lurking behind those doors.

Cornelius TodayMarch 27, 2013       I-77 Showdown moves to Raleigh

Business and political leaders as well as widenI77.org leaders opposed to toll lanes on I-77 heard N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis declare in no uncertain terms that toll lanes are the only way to widen I-77 in the next 20 years.

A Short ChronicleMarch 27, 2013    HOT Lanes: The Empire Strikes Back… or something like that

After last Saturday’s resolution at the MeckGOP convention where County Republicans rejected I77 HOT Lanes, circling the wagons was bound to happen. Those wagons appeared in the form of dozens of HOT lanes supporters, consultants, NCDOT officials, and two hand & picked media outlets at a meeting today in Raleigh.

WSOCMarch 20, 2013   Some Neighbors say they Don’t Support possible Toll Lanes on Independence

Local leaders are considering a big change to a major Charlotte road, and some people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding it are speaking out about the plan.

Freedom OutpostMarch 19 No Where To Turn – HOT Lanes & Other Insanities

(Lead in)…. Back to the HOT Lanes, one of my friends who is attending the NC DOT meetings mentioned the word “equity” that the promoters used in describing the reasoning for the HOT Lanes.  What?  I had to go looking to find that connection.  And find it, I did.  You see the usual complaint about HOT Lanes is that they are “Lexus Lanes,” created to accommodate only the wealthy who can afford the tolls.  But wait, but wait!   Here’s the little secret about HOT Lanes.  In Virginia, the State promised by contract to subsidize the vehicles carrying 3 or more people in the HOT Lanes.  And who does the subsidized money go to?  It goes to the toll management company.  Instant corporate welfare.  Voilá!! Who gets nothing out of this?  Commuters who will still be stuck in the slow lanes.  And that is most of them. The promoters admit HOT Lanes do nothing to lessen congestion on a road that is too narrow to accommodate the need of the commuters.

So let’s count the ways our tax dollars are being corrupted by HOT Lanes, shall we?  Read more here

WISTVMarch 14, 2013   Some Residents Unhappy with Proposed I-77 Tolls

State transportation officials say the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission held the meeting Wednesday night in Mooresville. Some drivers say they weren’t being heard.

Davidson News NetMarch 14, 2013   As Officials Explain I-77 Toll Plan, Critics keep asking, ‘Why?’

The Lake Norman Transportation Commission organized the meeting at the Charles Mack Citizens Center to give local officials a chance to learn more about the widening project. Specifically, they outlined the DOT’s plans to contract with a private company to finance, build and operate the toll lane project, through what’s known as a public-private partnership, or P3.

Charlotte ObserverMarch 14, 2013   Opponents pack I-77 Toll Lane Meeting

About 85 opponents of planned Interstate 77 toll lanes from Charlotte to Mooresville attended a meeting of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission on Wednesday night, with some sporting “No Tolls” stickers and a half-dozen holding up “No Tolls” banners.

A Short ChronicleMarch 11, 2013   HOT Lane usage: Bait and Switch Coming?

The 10 second version of the HOT Lanes sales pitch sounds pretty positive, but a look behind the curtain says the fast talking salesman is prepping his mark for the old bait and switch.

WCCBMarch 9, 2013   Toll Lanes to Pay For I-77 Construction

Members of the “Widen I-77” group turned out at the Lake Norman business expo in Davidson to gather support for efforts to widen the interstate without the use of toll lanes.

Indy WeekMarch  6, 2013   Private tolling companies run public roads

State leaders say $550 million in relief for I-77 through Charlotte is en route in the form of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes run by a private tolling company. This public-private partnership could set a statewide precedent.

WCCBMarch 5, 2013  The Economics Of Turning I-77 Into A Toll Road

.Mooresville TribuneMarch 3, 2013  Toll lane foes, DOT officials lock horns

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WCCBFebruary 28, 2013  Highway Officials Explain Tolls at their Convenience

Charlotte ObserverFebruary 28, 2013
State Highway Officials Defend I-77 Toll Lane Plans

Davidson News NetFebruary 25, 2013
Toll-lane opponents and supporters debate at Focus Friday

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Charlotte ObserverFebruary 25, 2013
DOT will explain planned I-77 toll lanes

News14

February 22, 2013
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce holds forum on widening I-77

Cornelius TodayFeb 14, 2013 Northcross Property owners come out against toll lanes

The Northcross Property Owners Association has come out against relying on a public private partnership and toll lanes to fund improvements to I-77 in Lake Norman.

The board of the association, which represents 60 properties covering an area of about 280 acres straddling exit 25 on I-77 in Huntersville, came out against plans to build privately funded High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-77 between Uptown Charlotte and Mooresville.  Read Article

Davidson News NetFeb 14, 2013
Expert: HOT lanes are about a reliable ride, not easing traffic

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Lake Norman NewsJanuary 25, 2013
Lake area officials map out the future

WCCBJanuary 22, 2013 Europeans Could Take Over Area Highways

Cornelius News Net January 22, 2013
Cornelius commissioners want state to reconsider I-77 tolls

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Cornelius News NetJanuary 21, 2013
Widen I-77 finds an ally: Iredell board says no to HOT lanes

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Herald WeeklyJanuary 17, 2013
Community looks for I-77 widening options

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Business TodayJanuary 16, 2013
‘Widen I-77’ group could sugar the tank for toll backers

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Charlotte ObserverJanuary 15, 2013
Reach Lake Norman on a golden scheme

Mooresville TribuneJanuary 15, 2013
Usage, cost of toll lanes are biggest concerns

Cornelius News NetJanuary 15, 2013
Widen I-77 calls for a halt in high-occupancy toll lanes plan

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A Short ChronicleJanuary 15, 2013
HOT lane opponents pack Cornelius Town Hall

.Pundit House

January 15, 2013
The case against hot lanes

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WCCBJanuary 14, 2013
If I-77N Is Bad Now, Group Says Just Wait…

.WSOCJanuary 14, 2013
Home, business owners upset with state’s plan to widen I-77 with toll roads

.Charlotte ObserverJanuary 14, 2013
Residents blast I-77 toll lanes

WSOC.

January 14, 2013
Group says toll lanes aren’t best answer for I-77

Charlotte ObserverJanuary 4, 2013
Cornelius board: Toll not only option for I-77

Herald WeeklyJanuary 3, 2013
Citizens hold meeting to discuss HOT lanes on I-77

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WSOCJanuary 3, 2013
Cornelius transportation leaders vote against I-77 toll lanes

Cornelius News NetJanuary 2, 2013
I-77 toll lanes on agendas at transportation board, citizens meetings

Davidson News NetDecember 5, 2012
As toll-lane plans advance, HOT lanes are a hot topic

1 thought on “In the News

  1. Pingback: In the News « valleebubak

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