A Little History of How We Got Here

April 2009 – Fast Lanes study published.  I-77 through Lake Norman identified as a top candidate for tolling.

November 2009 – Barry Moose, NCDOT Div 10 Engineer, says widening I-77 should be “top priority.” No mention of toll lanes.  Estimated cost of adding lanes from exit 23 to exit 28: $50M.

Mar 2010 – MUMPO publishes 2035 LRTP.   Widening I-77 comes in at #93 on priority list.

April 2010 – LNTC votes unanimous support of HOT lanes.  Project is $64M, requires $22M of gap (public) funding.

October 2010 – HOT lanes lose TIGER II (stimulus) funding.

Feb 2011 – Moose reports he “has identified enough money where he can four-lane I-77 all the way to Catawba.” One of those lanes would be a HOT lane in either direction.  Cornelius Board briefed by Kurt Naas.

May 2011 – First interest in private partnership for HOT lanes made public.  Project expected to cost $64M “but could be delayed if state broadens scope.”

October 2011 – Transportation Secretary Gene Conti visits Charlotte.  Says converting HOV lanes “could cost as much as $200M.”

June 2012 – Moose says taxpayers “could end up paying a one time subsidy of $25- $110M.”

June 2012 – NC Legislature passes H1077.  Allows NCDOT to enter into contracts with private companies to operate toll roads.

August  2012 – Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy introduces resolution requesting LNTC study general purpose lane alternatives to HOT lanes.  Naas pitches GP lanes and Gilroy’s resolution to Cornelius Town Board. Is told GP lanes cannot be built due to environmental reasons. Board does not vote on resolution.

September 2012 – Naas pitches GP lanes and Gilroy’s resolution to Cornelius Town Board. Board does not vote on resolution.

September 2012 – “Pork” added to project bumping cost to an estimated $513M.

October/November 2012 – Inaction by elected leaders generates public concern about rising cost and concept of P3/HOT.  WidenI77.org formed.  Project cost now estimated at $550 million including $170 million in public funding.

January 2013 – Cornelius Transportation Advisory Board recommends the Town Board adopt Gilroy’s resolution.   Wideni77.org holds public information session.  Over 100 attend on a rainy Monday night.

January 2013 – The following morning Senator Jeff Tarte tweets from Raleigh, “based upon morning meetings I expect I-77 to be tolled.”

January 2013 – Three days later Iredell County Commissioners replace “HOT lanes” with “general purpose lanes” in their transportation plan. Unanimously vote support for general purpose lanes.

Jan 2013 – The following week, Cornelius Town Board unanimously passes Gilroy’s resolution.

February 2013 – Lake Norman Mayors organize 1:1 closed-door meetings between commissioners and NCDOT/HOT lane consultants.

February 2013 – LNTC hosts meeting featuring ‘managed lanes expert’ consultant.

February 2013 – Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce host Focus Friday meeting on HOT lanes. Naas represents wideni77.org, Bill Thunberg represents LNTC.  Afterwards Chamber says it is “reconsidering earlier support for HOT lanes.”

February 2013 – Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain organizes 1:1 sessions between Chamber Board members and NCDOT/HOT lane consultants.

March 2013 – NCDOT hosts ‘planning charrette,’ a meeting where the public is invited to comment on the HOT lane plan.  It is held at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.

March 2013 – LNTC hosts meeting featuring NCDOT officials, ‘managed lanes expert’ consultant.

March 2013 – Mecklenburg GOP passes resolution calling for study of alternatives to toll lanes.

March 2013 – WidenI77 members travel to Raleigh to meet with NC Legislators.

March 2013 – N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis declares in no uncertain terms that toll lanes are the only way to widen I-77 in the next 20 years.

April 2013 – State road policy is under review, and the role of toll roads going forward is uncertain.

April 2013 – MUMPO hosts two public input meetings…..from 5 to 7pm on a Wednesday & Thursday

April 2013 – Charlotte Tea Party, asks Mecklenburg County legislators to consider other alternatives

April 2013 – Widen I77 requests 30 minutes on the MUMPO agenda for a powerpoint presentation outlining the General Purpose lane position. Limited to 10 minutes in citizen comment time.

May 2013 – N.C. Rep’s. Robert Brawley of Mooresville and Larry Pittman of Concord announce opposition to a proposed state plan for high-occupancy toll lanes

May 2013 – In a split vote, Mayor Rinker casts the deciding one for Cornelius to endorse the HOT lane plan at the MUMPO meeting

May 2013 – 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.

May 2013 – The Triangle Expressway is touted by HOT lane proponents in Mecklenburg County as a success story. The facts say otherwise.

May 2013 – Prior to MUMPO vote to add HOT lane project to the Long Range Transportation plan, Chairwoman Sarah McAuley ends the citizen comment time without allowing citizens to speak in opposition of the plan.  The vote is passed unanimous for tolls by MUMPO, our representatives from the towns and cities in Mecklenburg & Union Counties.  REMEMBER THIS COME ELECTIONS IN NOVEMBER

May 2013 – Speaker of the House Thom Tillis demands Robert Brawley’s resignation as Chair of the Finance Committee

May 2013 – Speaker of the House Thom Tillis holds disciplinary session for Larry Pittman.

May 2013 – Sen Jeff Tarte of Cornelius indicates Governor McCrory’s newly proposed “Strategic Mobility Fund” criteria intended to replace the Equity Formula created in 1989 will focus on projects that address traffic congestion and bottlenecks of regional or statewide significance – which could reopen I-77 discussions

June 2013 – Volunteers attend the NCGOP Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center and raise awareness with flyers, petitions & signs

June 2013 – 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

June 2013 – The NC House votes to continue moving forward with tolls.  Apparently the Republican majority is ok with ignoring their party executive committee.  REMEMBER THIS COME ELECTIONS IN 2014

July 2013 – NCDOT held two open house / public hearings, Mooresville & Charlotte.  Speakers also questioned the profitability of other toll projects across the country. In response, David Ungemah, national managed -lanes director for global consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, said 17 of the 18 HOT projects across the country generate revenue that exceeds their operational and maintenance costs.  Our research suggests that is not true (read here)

To be continued…

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