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Danger Will Robinson!

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dangerDo you remember that phrase from the old “Lost in Space” TV show, which initially ran from 1965 to 1968? It chronicled the adventures of the Robinson family who were, of course, lost in space.

It was almost too scary for me. They were always getting into trouble. But the boy Will Robinson was fortunate, he had a trusty robot friend, (picture a cross between R2D2 and C-3PO), who watched over him and warned him of danger.

The phrase has slipped into popular culture, and is now said to warn someone when they are about to make a mistake, or when they are overlooking something.

We still sometimes need people to warn us when bad things are about to happen. As citizens, I believe we have a responsibility to speak up, to inform, and to try to stop bad things from happening if we are able.

And that’s what I’ve done with the toll road issue. As a private citizen, I see our leaders getting ready to make a huge mistake, one that will impact us negatively for generations to come. The more I learn about the toll roads, the more problems I see, and so I’ve worked to stop them.

But as I tried to alert others of the problems associated with HOT Lanes (High Occupancy Tolls), some of our leaders have worked just as hard to keep me quiet, to spread misinformation, and to sabotage my efforts. They have turned this into a political issue, and I have been quite disappointed by the efforts of some who I trusted to have our best interests at heart.

There is an election coming up with early voting starting this week and the main election on Tuesday, November 5. I’m working alongside many other concerned citizens to get people into office who will help us defeat the tolls.

Danger! Don’t be fooled by the propaganda of our opponents. The TV show had creative writers, and so evidently does the toll road scheme.

Here are some of the things they are saying that are not true:

Myth # 1) This is a done deal, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Actually we have been assured by the NC DOT that nothing is final until the contract is signed. And even after that there are ways to stop it. Here is the latest schedule according to an October 22, 2013 facebook post by Senator Jeff Tarte:

“Last, here are the tentative dates for widening I77 with HOT/managed lanes:
– Open bids in December
– Select the P3 vendor in January
Let the contract in April
– Begin construction immediately”

Myth # 2) This is a state issue, local elections will not make a difference.

This is a state and local issue. As more state leaders learn about the negative aspects of HOT lanes, we need local leaders in place who we can count on to fight for what is in the best interests of the citizens of Charlotte, Huntersville, Cornelius, and Davidson. These municipal elections are extremely important.

Myth # 3) Good news, the contract is in the best interest of the citizens of N.C., and the funding model works!

The I-77 HOT lanes would have to be the second highest grossing project in the country while serving one of the smallest metro areas. There is no way the financials make sense.

We can’t be sure what the contract actually says, which is why we have asked for an independent review by someone representing the citizens of North Carolina. So far we have been denied. But the last version we saw still had the taxpayers of N.C. on the hook if the project fails for any reason.

Myth # 4) Four additional access points have been added to ensure there is one near you.

More access points may be added, but at what cost?  We’ve heard that with the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and the actual work and material, each access costs close to $20 million. That would be $80 million more on a $550 million project. A 14.5% increase in the total price. Will it then win approval through the EIS? This is particularly important since many of us are within five miles of a nuclear power station (McGuire) and the toll lanes will be needed as the major evacuation route.

Myth # 5) There is no money to widen I-77 for at least 20 years if you don’t build tolls.

As part of the HOT/managed lane project $200 million of additional one-time monies will be reallocated to this region to support surrounding road priorities.

Widening the 14 miles of I-77 in the bottlenecked area with one general purpose lane in each direction is estimated to cost approximately $100 million. We cannot do that because there is no money available for 20 years or more? Hmmmm.

The bottom line; this is a terrible plan being forced on the taxpayers of North Carolina for the benefit of private companies and their investors. It has been rushed through without allowing alternatives to be explored, and we need to stop it if at all possible.

Please visit TollFreeNC.org for a list of candidates who have pledged to stand up against tolls. Donate if you are able, and sign up to volunteer.

Together we can stop the tolls and save our community from the increased congestion and other negative impacts it will have on the way we live, work and play.

Danger, Will Robinson. Danger!

PS  –  A few days ago a friend shared a link to THIS STORY regarding the money woes of the first foreign-owned Texas toll road. It was financed with a public private partnership. Sound familiar? We don’t want to say, “We told you so.” We want to say, “Wow, I’m glad North Carolina made the right decision.”

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