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Citizens To Protest In Cornelius at Exit 28 Against Toll Lanes

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no tollsCitizens from Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Iredell, Lincoln and Union counties opposed to the toll lanes on I-77 plan to hold signs and protest the toll lanes this Friday at Exit 28 from 4:00-7:00 p.m. The toll lanes, assuming the project passes legal and financial closing hurdles, will span from Mooresville to Charlotte and be operated under a 50-year contract with the Spanish company Cintra. The prices for the tolls have been projected by the NCDOT to cost as much as $20 to eventually $40 round-trip for the 27 miles from Exit 36 in Mooresville to Charlotte. With I-77 serving as an evacuation route for both Duke Energy’s Catawba Nuclear Station at Lake Wylie and its McGuire Nuclear Station on Lake Norman, citizens are concerned about evacuation feasibility in the event of a nuclear accident or the threat of terrorism to one or both of these nuclear plants. Citizens are also frustrated that Governor McCrory has not made this vital route through the state’s largest city a top priority for receiving public funding for widening I77 with general purpose lanes instead of toll lanes.

Vallee Bubak, Republican of Davidson, N.C., an outspoken opponent of the toll lanes for more than two years said, “Widening I77 with general purpose lanes where it bottlenecks between Exits 36 and 23 is the most efficient and cost-effective way to quickly ease congestion. This toll project involves the wasteful and unnecessary process of tearing down and rebuilding bridges plus burdening commuters with the construction of expensive tolling equipment — all to accommodate a private company’s $655 million dollar boondoggle toll project. It is absolutely neglectful that government officials and Governor McCrory have overlooked such an essential highway in North Carolina and are now pushing cost-prohibitive tolls. This needs to be stopped by McCrory now. We need regular lanes — not toll lanes.”

Duke Energy’s Catawba and McGuire nuclear plants have 10- and 50-mile evacuation zones with I-77 being the main evacuation route for both stations. According to the WidenI77.org website, “I-77 in the Lake Norman area was completed in 1972 and has never been widened north of mile marker 23. This section of I-77 currently carries approximately 100,000 vehicles a day and has the highest truck per highway mile density in the state.”

Through an up-and-coming Facebook group called Exit 28 Ridiculousness, citizens are expressing their outrage over the toll plans and are looking forward to a peaceful protest this Friday so that officials hear loud and clear that tolling this vital artery for North Carolina is unacceptable and a gross neglect of constituents, their livelihoods, the area’s economy, public safety, and property values.

Amanda Dudley who started the Exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page said, “I’m not at all surprised at the news of the I-77 protest. The Exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page currently has over 2400 members, and many of those members are also leading the protest efforts on Friday. As the Administrator of that site, I’ve gotten to know several of these people not only through the Facebook page, but also on a personal level. I know that these are passionate, highly educated, well-informed individuals who are strongly opposed to the decisions that have been made regarding the proposed toll road and the repercussions that will definitely be affecting us now and for many, many years to come. They want change, and they want answers – and they clearly aren’t getting either so this is naturally the next step. I don’t think it will be their last, either.”

WidenI77.org released the following statement this week: “WidenI77.org supports the efforts of all citizens and groups fighting the plan to build toll lanes in the Lake Norman area. We encourage those who can to join in the protest this Friday at Exit 28 in Cornelius, like WidenI-77 and Exit 28 Ridiculousness on Facebook, and visit WidenI77.org. Because 50 years is a long time.”

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