by: Joe Bruno Updated:
DAVIDSON, N.C. - The bill that would cancel the I-77 toll lane contract is in jeopardy after two mayors traveled to Raleigh to lobby in support of the project.
Cornelius leaders will head to Raleigh Wednesday morning to fight against the Interstate 77 toll lanes after their mayor showed support for it.
They are calling on the mayor to resign as well, saying he sabotaged their effort to cancel the toll contract.
Channel 9 has learned Davidson Mayor John Woods and Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis traveled to Raleigh for a meeting last week to lobby Senate lawmakers in favor of I-77 tolls.
The Cornelius town council passed a resolution Tuesday of no confidence in Mayor Chuck Travis.
But the mayor said he refuses to resign.
"They came as mayors, representing their communities, and both advocating for continuing the project as is," state Sen. Jeff Tarte (R- Cornelius), who was in the meeting in Raleigh, said. "I think the message they presented was completely inaccurate and a disservice to our communities."
According to Tarte, the meeting had a detrimental impact to the bill.
House Bill 954 passed with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority last week. Since then, the bill has been assigned to the Transportation Committee.
Tarte told Channel 9 before the meeting he had enough votes to pass the bill. Tarte said 21 Republican lawmakers said they would support it and six said they might. Tarte said six Democratic lawmakers told him they would support it. According to Tarte, he didn't have the chance to ask 17 lawmakers.
Now, the bill's future is in jeopardy.
"It leads the leadership to be confused, because they are hearing mixed messages," Tarte said.
In the meeting, Tarte said one of the mayors said only 100-200 people are against tolls. Another mayor said his town board is neutral on the issue.
"Their message can only be described as absurd," Tarte said.
Both Davidson and Cornelius passed resolutions against tolling I-77.
A Public Policy poll found more than 80 percent of Lake Norman residents are against tolls, and a petition against the project gathered more than 10,000 signatures.
At Prosciutto's Pizza in Cornelius, tolls are often the topic being discussed. The owner of the pizzeria said he feels the mayor has betrayed Cornelius
"He is stabbing us in the back,” Joel Pffyer, the owner, said. "Everyone is against this, and all of the sudden, he goes and does this."
The meeting surprised the Board of Commissioners as well. According to Commissioner David Gilroy, the Board will now seek a no confidence vote against Travis and call for his resignation.
"This was a self immolation of a sort," Gilroy said. "It was a bizarre act that is unconscionable. He is deeply, deeply unpopular in his own community now."
Gilroy said if Travis refuses to resign, he will review all legal options for a recall election. The town of Cornelius previously voted to censor Travis on the issue.
"This was shocking to the entire community, unprecedented, unconscionable and a very serious matter," he said. "There are literally tens of thousands of people who have worked tirelessly against this project."
In a text message to Eyewitness News Reporter Joe Bruno, Travis said he has been traveling and will issue a statement on Saturday.
Woods told Bruno in an email: "At no time did I speak on behalf of the Davidson Board of Commissioners or the citizens of Davidson. I voiced my own opinions on the need to improve traffic congestion in our region."
According to Tarte, Senate lawmakers have each received close to 1,000 emails from people against tolls. He is encouraging people against tolls to keep emailing while he tries to convince Senate leadership to bring the bill up for a vote.
Tarte also told Channel 9 if the bill isn't voted on before the session is over, he will make sure another one is introduced during the long session next year.
"They need to know this will not defeat us," he said. "It is harmful, and it is detrimental, not only to our region but also the state."
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