Audit: NCDOT followed all laws when awarding I-77 tolls contract

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A 76 page report by the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor found the state Department of Transportation followed all procedures, policies and state and federal laws when it awarded the I-77 tolls contract to Cintra, a Spanish company now building the tolls.

It also said the NCDOT did not favor any one vendor over others and that no state employees who worked on the contract profited from the deal.

State Auditor Beth Wood said the report should put to rest rumors it wasn’t a fair process.

“Some of the things that floated around looked like they were a problem, but when you delved into it, it turned out not to be,” Wood said.

What Wood did not say is whether the toll lane project is a good idea, and the report hasn’t changed the minds of any of the project’s critics.

“We still got 112 people in the House last week saying this is a bad idea,” toll lane opponent John Hettwer said.

Hettwer said he is still skeptical about the project and its contractor.

The report found that if I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Cintra, defaulted the state could be obligated to pay $231 million. That estimate assumes the default were to happen in 2023, the project was finished and there was no debt refinancing.

The state auditor's office also said there were no concerns about Cintra’s finances, because at the time the agreement was signed in 2014, the company did not have a history of project defaults. Since then, there have been two Cintra projects that have had financial troubles, one in Indiana and one in Texas.

[RELATED: Lawmakers pass transportation bill without addressing I-77 tolls project]

The report was done to answer legislators’ questions about the NCDOT’s process in awarding the contract. It did not include a review of any issues related to project construction or outcomes.

"I think it's a non-issue and we just move forward, because at the end of the day we still have to fix this project, “ Hettwer said.

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