• CRTPO face tough decision on 10-year roads plan, I-77 lanes

    By: Joe Bruno


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Local transportation leaders will face a tough choice when the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization meets in January. 

    North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told the CRTPO the controversial toll lane project can be canceled if they revoke their support of the 10-year roads plan.

    But the CRTPO can't pick and choose which projects to cancel. Dozens of projects are at risk throughout Mecklenburg, Union and Iredell counties.

    "In a game of chess, we are not in an enviable position right now," Iredell County commissioner Ken Robertson said.

    Robertson was one of several lawmakers who voted against the 10-year roads plan last time.

    Robertson said he's against tolls but hasn't made up his mind on the re-vote yet. He said all lawmakers have to look at the consequences of potentially losing projects and money.

    "That is a really really tall order to say yeah we will pay that price to get out of the toll roads," Robertson said.

    In total 91 projects, including 23 non-highway projects, and $1.8 billion are at stake.

    In a statement, a representative for the North Carolina Department of Transportation said NCDOT is moving forward with the projects as they await results from the next CRTPO meeting.

    But anti-tollers said no amount of money is too much when it comes to stopping a project they think will also do damage.

    McCrory puts pressure on leaders over 10-year roads plan

    Gov. Pat McCrory has put the pressure on local leaders to make one last call on whether to move forward or back out on a 10-year roads plan that includes the highly-controversial toll lanes project on Interstate 77 north of uptown.

    It was decided in August by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization that it would stay the course with the 10-year roads plan that includes projects for managed lanes on interstates 77 and 485 and Highway 74 through Charlotte. 

    The governor sent a letter Monday to the CRTPO a local board made up of elected officials, asking for another vote to clearly state whether it will "reaffirm the current strategy" or "reverse your previous decision and set in motion the necessary steps to create a new regional transportation plan."

    Charlotte City Council delegate Vi Lyles supported the current plan four months ago. Her one vote counts for 31 and it's one of the most powerful on the board, but that vote could change.

    "Charlotte will review it. The council will make a decision and I will vote accordingly," Lyles said.

    Charlotte City Council is expected to review the plan and the risks involved during a meeting on the Jan. 4. Lyles said the council would vote on how she should vote with the CRTPO meets McCrory's request on Jan. 20.

    It comes after months of finger-pointing between voters, state and local officials including McCrory over who has the power to stop it in response to the public outcry against it.

    "It appears to me that he is certainly trying to shift the responsibility for any cancellation to the planning organization and really take it out of his administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation," said political expert Michael Bitzer. "I don't see how this really gets him out of the sticky situation. It probably only inflames the anger in those communities more towards the governor." 

    In the letter, McCrory told the board backing out of the contract to build toll lanes on I-77 will lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties that could go to local cities to absorb. He also said stopping any project in the 10-year plan would have a domino effect on other projects.

    The impact the project could have a ripple effect on other transportation projects.

    Dozens of projects across Mecklenburg, Iredell and Union counties are at risk -- as is more than $1.8 billion in funding.

    In total, 68 highway and 23 non-highway projects are at risk to be canceled or have their funding delayed.

    Not all of the projects are roadways. Expansion of greenways, like Little Sugar Creek, are at stake if the toll lanes are struck down.

    Lyles pointed out the local transportation planning board did not have its hand in the contract over the I-77 toll lanes that has communities and voters up in arms.

    "The CRTPO decides how we want to manage traffic in our region. Once we make that decision, highways are the responsibility of the state. How to do it is the state's responsibility," said Lyles

    Read our past coverage on the toll lanes:

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