Monday evening, WidenI77.org sent our a press release announcing their intent to file suit on Tuesday to stop the HOT lanes project intended to add tolls to new lanes on the main artery through the Lake Norman area.
This comes on the same week Cinta - the contractor who won the bid (as the sole bidder) - was scheduled to reach fancial close. However, all indications are that the close date will not occur as required on January 22nd.
Is this a sign of problems getting the financing for the project? Or, is it just a bump in the road towards beginning construction? Who knows.
However, if a lawsuit gains traction, that could be a different matter all together.
Check back later today for more information. Here is the press release:
Cornelius, N.C. – January 20, 2015 – Widen I-77 and Matt Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, the legal counsel retained by Widen I-77, filed a legal complaint in Mecklenburg County Superior Court this morning to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the I-77 toll project from moving forward.
The group will hold a 10:30am press conference to discuss the case at the Law Offices of Arnold & Smith, PLLC 200 North McDowell Street, Charlotte.
The project calls for Cintra, a Spanish company, to build private toll lanes on the remaining public right-of-way and operate them under a 50 year contract. Under the terms of the contract Cintra is required to secure financing by January 22, 2015 or forfeit a $15 million deposit to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The group anticipates NCDOT will extend the financing deadline.
“We hope the bond markets recognize the financial infeasibility of this project and decide against funding it,” said Kurt Naas, a spokesman for Widen I-77 “However, the bond markets have ignored the litany of recent tolling bankruptcies, so we are moving forward with the legal challenge.”
“We are confident in our position and look forward to having our day in court. Undeniably, this is a classic David versus Goliath battle, but we are ready for the fight” said Matt Arnold, Managing Partner with Arnold & Smith, PLLC.
Widen I-77 has begun the lawsuit by filing the Complaint. The group expects to have a hearing on its request for a preliminary injunction in the coming weeks. A full trial will likely happen a year or more from now. The group expects to incur significant legal expenses throughout the process.
“We have been able to take this step because our neighbors cared enough and donated generously,” added Naas. “Our opponents have retained two huge law firms- one with offices throughout the South and the other based in New York City. They have very deep pockets. We will take the case as far as our resources allow.”
To cover anticipated legal expenses the group has planned three Lake Norman area information sessions/fund raisers:
February 2, 7pm
15906 Old Statesville Road
February 17, 7pm
Charles Mack Center
215 North Main Street
February 19, 7pm
20310 Chartwell Drive