Many citizens know that I-77 from Exit 23 in Huntersville to Exit 36 in Mooresville is heavily congested. What you may not know is that the Federal government has rated this stretch a service level “F”, which is the worst possible rating. I-77 has never been widened since it was built, 40 years ago. Now, the NCDOT's idea of solving that problem is to install toll lanes, which they believe will "alleviate congestion."
The issue for North Carolina is that tolling I-77 is just the start of the plan to toll N.C. highways — I-95, I-40, I-85 and Hwy. 74 are also under consideration. Toll lanes are a bad idea, not just for I-77 but for all of North Carolina.
Did you know:
• Toll lanes incur a significant operating cost, typically millions of dollars per year.
• Toll revenues barely cover the operating cost. Whatever is left over- only a few cents of every toll dollar- will actually pay for construction.
• Toll lanes take discretionary income out of consumer’s pockets and send it out of state.
• ‘Congestion pricing’ ensures congestion in the general-purpose lanes. (Toll advocates admit toll lanes are an ‘alternative’ to congestion, not a solution.)
• Toll lanes limit access to good infrastructure to those who can afford to pay for it.
• NC’s only experience in toll roads has been a huge waste of money. The Triangle Expressway cost $1 Billion, and in twenty years is projected to carry half the traffic I-77 does today!
The NCDOT HOT Lane proposal says that vehicles with three or more occupants would use the HOT lanes for free. All others could access the lane by paying a toll, which would vary based on the amount of congestion in the general-purpose lanes (“congestion pricing”).
• Initial Proposal: $50 Million, 10 miles. Taxpayer contribution: $22 Million. Operated publicly.
• Current Contract with Spanish company - CINTRA: $650 Million, 27 miles. Taxpayer direct contribution and risk: $163 Million. Operated privately under a 50-year contract.
• Alternative not being considered: One general-purpose lane in either direction. Cost: $80-130 Million to address congestion in Lake Norman; $400 million to do entire 27 miles project without tolls.
With all those negatives, why is the state pursuing tolls? Tax revenues for roads are expected to remain flat or even decline while construction and maintenance costs are expected to increase.
WidenI77 believes widening I-77 with general-purpose lanes will save the taxpayer millions, save our children and grandchildren from a burdensome contract, and provide the infrastructure we need.
There are a number of ways we can continue to build our infrastructure without resorting to tolls:
• Prioritize statewide based on project merit ala the Strategic Transportation Investments Process.
• Spend on the essentials. We cannot afford more billion-dollar toll roads.
• Eliminate the distinction between loop funding and other roads. Again, projects should compete on merit.
• Ensure fuel taxes are spent on roads and not diverted elsewhere.
• Use local participation as a funding criterion keeping in mind the limitations of GS136-66 and GS134B-350.
We need your support to secure a better plan for I-77 and N.C. highways.
Stop the plan to build toll lanes on I-77. Provide North Carolina with a fair funding solution for all citizens. Don't allow the short sighted and unfair non-solution being imposed on the citizens of Lake Norman and Charlotte.
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