This week saw NCDOT finally get around to hosting their public information forums on the HOT lanes project. Dozens of staffers were on hand to answer questions. There were several booths covering different topics and several rows of giant maps for attendees to traverse. There was even this highly produced 5-minute video on the project playing on a constant loop.
However, even with all this effort and expense one still had to wonder if once again the NCDOT had missed the mark in "communicating" with the public.
If you knew very little about the project, it's hard to see how a consistent message could be communicated with so many staffers milling about talking to people. If you knew a lot about the project there was no new information presented, and what was presented was overly rosy.
Watch the video and you see what I mean. There is no mention of Cintra - the foreign company behind the project - only their local subsidiary I77 Mobility Partners is mentioned. There is no mention of total project costs or the 50-year contract to manage the lanes. There is also nothing in the video that lets people know what the tolls will be - not even close.
To add to it, the narrator's voice kept making me think of some futuristic utopian movie like the Running Man or the Hunger Games. It definitely had that "too good to be true" feeling where you just know something awful is lurking behind the scenes.
Compare that to the WidenI77.org/anti-toll actions this week.
They had a meeting at the Lucky Dog Bark and Brew to discuss the real impacts to business along the corridor that will be negatively impacted (possibly fatally impacted) by the construction that's to come. Also, some very effective signs that went up this week - one at the intersection of 73 and 21 in Huntersville and one spotted Friday afternoon on the side of a pontoon in Lake Norman near the .
Those signs alone probably reached 10 times the numbers of people at a fraction of the cost as NCDOTs 8 hours of open houses.
For the week, the "Community Outreach" edge goes to WidenI77.org