Leaders, community question private meetings on toll lanes

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Elected officials from towns north of Charlotte will have the chance to talk with the company that wants to build tolls lanes on Interstate 77 but the public won't be allowed in.
 
A series of private meetings have been set up for Thursday between the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Cintra and leaders in Huntersville, Davidson and Mooresville. 
 
Cintra was awarded a contract to build additional lanes along I-77 between Charlotte and Mooresville in exchange for collecting the toll revenue paid by drivers.
 
The proposal has been controversial and so have the Thursday meetings.
 
"To me, it sounds like a secret meeting. When the DOT said they're going to have meetings with Cintra, they're going to be made available. I expected meetings that would involve everybody. Not just elected officials," said Huntersville Town Commissioner Rob Kidwell. 
 
Other critics of the toll lanes jumped into the fray too.
 
Vince Winegardner, with the group WidenI77, said the closed-door meetings raise even more questions about the project.
 
"If this is a done deal and the decision has been made, why do we have to have private meetings? Why can't they discuss this in public?” he said.
 
The DOT said the meetings with Cintra are to provide one-on-one time for local leaders to get information from Cintra. 
 
DOT said public meetings are scheduled in September.
 
As for Thursday's meetings for elected officials only, Kidwell said he won't attend.
 
"We should be able to ask those questions in the open, get the direct answers into the open because the people who put us in office deserve to know that," Kidwell said.