NC governor calls for tweaks to design of I-77 toll lane project

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is offering hope for some tweaks to the design of toll lanes on Interstate 77, but toll opponents are having none of it.

Last week, the governor mentioned the possibility of redesigning parts of the controversial project “to make that road even better.”

Asked to clarify that comment, McCrory said the North Carolina Department of Transportation continues to analyze stacks of feedback from North Mecklenburg towns that have vigorously opposed the project.

“We’re reviewing possible options of making it easier to travel between Cornelius, Huntersville and Davidson.  And, so, we’re looking at design options and cost options. We’re listening to what the people have to say,” McCrory said.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, a vocal opponent of the toll lanes, said the governor isn’t listening to the right people.

He calls the governor’s comments "insulting."

“After nine resolutions calling for cancellation, after 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for cancellation, to say, 'I’m listening to the people’ proves you’re not,” Puckett said.

Opponents had hoped the Legislature would call for the project to be cancelled. 
The North Carolina House sided with them; the Senate, however,refused to vote on the issue. Construction of the lanes is being done by a subsidiary of Cintra, the Spanish company that is paying for most of the construction cost in exchange for collecting toll fees and restricting the state's ability to build new free lanes for the next 50 years.

Opponents call it a bad deal.

The governor has continued to support the project but has made political enemies among voters in North Mecklenburg and Southern Iredell counties.

If his talk about potential redesigns of the project were meant to smooth ruffled feathers among opponents, it doesn’t appear to be working. Bill Russell, who heads the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, says there aren’t enough “tweaks” to satisfy opponents.

“This project needs to be canceled,” he said.

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