In Huntersville, after an historic election that saw the defeat of an incumbent Mayor and two incumbent Commissioners based largely on their support of the I77 HOT lanes project, the new Board unanimously passed a strongly worded resolution asking that the contract for the project be “terminated”. The resolution included 13 different reasons, or “whereas” clauses, for requesting NCDOT terminate the contract.
In Cornelius, things were a bit more personal with the new Board apparently considering a resolution criticizing Mayor Chuck Travis’s quasi-official actions supporting the project in contradiction to the Board majority’s long standing opposition to it. A vote on a resolution was deferred, but even considering it as one of the new Board’s first items for discussion sends a clear message.
However, even with these strong moves, not everything has been going smoothly for the community effort to defeat the tolls.
The details behind the previously announced “Select Committee” in the NC House to discuss the subject were released last Friday. Those details failed to inspire confidence that the Committee will lead to any quick action. The committee is made up of 20 members and has a charter to look at all sorts of transportation issues, not just the I77 project. It also includes members of who are known supporters of the HOT lanes such as Mooresville Rep John Fraley.
Also, the recent “I77 Summit” held in Cornelius in late November failed to draw Governor McCrory’s attendance. Instead, he sent the usual suspects from the NCDOT to rehash their same talking points. He also continued to hide behind the actions of the region’s main transportation planning body, the CRTPO - saying only that body had the authority to cancel the project – a position which would seem to undermine his own authority as Governor.
So, while clearly the local opposition is gaining steam there is just as clearly much more work to do if the powers that be in Raleigh are to be convinced this project needs to be re-thought.
As luck would have it, an opportunity for citizens to contribute to that work is currently underway.
Every four years the Federal Department of Transportation reviews how the various regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations are doing. In this area, that body is the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, or CRTPO. The public comment period for this quadrennial review of the CRTPO runs through next Wednesday, December 15th.
Local citizens should have plenty to say regarding how the body has handled this issue.
Who can forget former Huntersville Commissioner Sarah McAulay serving as the CRTPO Chair and unilaterally shutting down toll opponents during the public hearing on the HOT lanes? Her actions as the Chair of the body in general as well as during this public hearing specifically have a great deal to do with why she is a “former” Commissioner.
Who can forget the CRTPO ignoring over 700 comments opposing the project before the body voted to approve it? Defying common sense, the CRTPO actually approved a toll project without giving the public any clear idea what the actual tolls would be.
Who can forget Charlotte – which holds a near majority of the votes on the CRTPO - snubbing the Lake Norman area municipalities and not even bothering to attend the recent “I77 Summit”? The City’s actions show a clear problem with how CRTPO is structured in that Charlotte really does not have to listen to the other members, and city leaders have proven they won't.
The November press release from CRTPO says the Federal review is to ensure it “follows a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning process.” Based on the above examples, the body sure seems to fall short on at least a couple of those points.
To provide your own comments, send an email to Loretta.Barren@dot.gov with the Federal Highway Administration by December 15th.