by Michael Lowrey
Carolina Journal executive Editor Don Carrington has a 2,000+ word story out on the I-77 toll project. It begins:
RALEIGH — Despite widespread vocal opposition from area business leaders and residents, Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina Department of Transportation officials maintain it is too late for the state to scrap the controversial 26-mile Interstate 77 tolling project between Charlotte and Mooresville in favor of nontolled alternatives.
On May 20, state officials signed a 900-page, 50-year agreement with I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of a Spanish company, to build and operate the project, officially named the I-77 Hot Lanes Project. The project is expected to cost $648 million. Mobility Partners will set toll rates, collect the tolls, and — for the most part — keep all the proceeds.
Opponents of the project want the state to build additional lanes without charging tolls, and pay for them using existing funding mechanisms or with the highway bonds McCrory is promoting. Some opponents characterize a $144.5 million incentive payment from NCDOT to the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization as a bribe. Others predict nightmarish commutes, as the eight-mile stretch at the northernmost portion of the project will include only one lane traveling each direction, with little room to accommodate disabled motorists or emergency vehicles.
But McCrory is not budging on the issue, citing the high cost of terminating the contract and the faster timetable for completion promised by the public-private partnership.
You can read the rest of the story here.