HOT lanes are wrong way for Lake Norman
by Staff Writer
Everyone agrees we need a solution for Interstate 77 traffic in the Lake Norman area.
Rush hour is unbearable for those stuck on I-77 north of Exit 23. An accident on I-77 brings gridlock to N.C. 115, U.S. 21 and the main streets of north Mecklenburg towns.
Even though the N.C. Department of Transportation has ranked I-77 widening as the second highest priority, the state and the federal government have said that the widening is unlikely to be accomplished any time in the near future (a decade from now is the best guess or threat). There is no money according to the government for this high priority and essential infrastructure improvement.
The Lake Norman region has heard this for years, yet Raleigh and Charlotte receive hundreds of millions of dollars for roads and mass transit while we patiently wait our turn. Now they say they are out of money!
Lake Norman residents pay gas and sales tax so that state and Charlotte/Charlotte Area Transit System can build highly subsidized trains and other road works. It is time for the federal, state and county governments to step up and solve this problem. Unfortunately, we may not like the solution the NNCDOT is about to impose on us.
How can I-77 be widened north of Exit 23 during these times of fiscal austerity?
The NCDOT with the acquiescence of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Lake Norman Transportation Commission are on the final leg of implementing a “managed lane” plan built through an innovative public-private partnership (P3) and paid for through high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes.
This plan has one good point. We could have one or two additional lanes of pavement on I-77 that extends from Exit 23 to Exit 36 by the end of 2015.
The bad points include the cost of those lanes to commuters and taxpayers from Huntersville to Mooresville and the surrounding Lake Norman area. A higher cost is built into the plan due to HOT lane-specific requirements and the otherwise unnecessary “improvements” as far south as 5th Street in Charlotte!
Additional costs are included to cover the risk associated with the private sector building and operating this HOT lane “solution.” These additional costs and restrictions will be borne by future generations in our haste to have I-77 widened at any price.
A group of citizens, WidenI77.org, has formed to challenge the NCDOT and our local governments to widen I-77 between Exit 23 and Exit 36 using a more traditional funding method.
The traditional approach to solving the I-77 congestion problems would cost about $130 million. The NCDOT HOT lane plan will cost more than $540 million and be paid for by those drivers using I-77 between Mooresville and Charlotte. A second phase would extend this P3 HOT lane concept to the section of I-77 between Mooresville and Statesville.
The first phase of this P3 HOT lane plan is on a fast track and is likely to be approved by August 2013 unless our local leaders actively oppose it. So far, Lake Norman leaders have resisted even hearing views that contradict the NCDOT’s approach!
This new HOT lane approach to funding has been tried in Atlanta and is extremely unpopular. Learn more about the Atlanta experience at www.DavidsonWatchdogs.org.
You can also learn more about the P3 HOT Lane concept and its affect on Lake Norman citizens at www.
WidenI77.org and at a public information session at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave.
After you have done that, I am confident that you will contact your town leaders and insist they act to stop P3 HOT lanes and demand a more traditional approach to solving congestion on I-77.
Failure to be informed and voice your demand for fair treatment will likely result in a much more expensive and frustrating trip on I-77 for you and future generations.