Cornelius: NCDOT Presents HOT Lanes Plan
Residents attended the July 7 meeting of the Cornelius Board of Commissioners after learning that the NC-DOT was scheduled to present their plan for the construction of i-77 HOT lanes. Citizens expressed concerns over the cost of the tolls, invoking the term “lexus lanes” as an illustration that the HOT lanes would generate a policy of discrimination against the poor from equal access to public trust facilities. Others questioned the impact that the United Nations’ Agenda 21 has had on the plans for road construction. Many expressed displeasure with the private party to the contract (Cintra), a Spain-based company with a perceived less-than-stellar track record in the United States, and frustration over the lack of transparency from NC-DOT and state legislators. One resident referred to the contract arrangement as “crony capitalism.” Another asked the commissioners what, specifically, it would take for them to oppose the plan, stating that the residents would provide the information necessary. NC Sen. Jeff Tarte stated that he had prepared a list of constituent questions and would post NC-DOT’s response to the questions to his facebook page when they were received.
Once public comment concluded, NCDOT’s Technical Services Director Rodger Rochelle, who signed the contract with Cintra on behalf of the NCDOT, presented the plan to the board. Rochelle stated that the HOT lanes would come down to a matter of choice. He provided the narrative of a mother running late to pick up her child from daycare, stating that she could choose to use the HOT lane to get there quicker by paying a couple of dollars. The story was met with laughter from audience members, many of whom had seen projections of up to $21 for a round trip using the HOT lanes during rush hour. Rochelle faced tough questions from Commissioner David Gilroy, who disclosed up front his opposition to the plan. Gilroy presented a slide showing Cintra’s revenue projections and asked how $13 billion in revenues to Cintra over a span of several years is justified for what is said to be an $80 – $100 million congestion problem. Rochelle responded that the $13 billion was not “real dollars,” an unfortunate use of terminology which again resulted in laughter from audience members. Rochelle clarified that the $13 billion in revenues is not expressed in 2013 dollars.
Commissioner John Bradford voiced his desire to see the NC-DOT better communicate their plans with the public, stating that he has been on the receiving end of public misconceptions over the HOT lanes plan. Bradford also sought assurances over how the revenues from the tolls are to be allocated amongst stakeholders, stating that he would like assurances of even distribution rather than the decision being made by CRTPO (formerly MUMPO), a scenario under which any extra toll revenues would likely go to Charlotte.
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