Tuesday, January 15, 2013

HOT Lane Opponents Pack Cornelius Town Hall (Video)

The WidenI77.org activist group generated an overflow crowd at Cornelius Town Hall on Monday night to present information on the proposed High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes for widening I77 through North Mecklenburg and South Iredell.  To say the least they did an excellent job communicating some very important and useful information!

Every major local news organization was there covering the event.  Various elected officials from the North Meck towns were present.  NCDOT sent representatives.  Our state officials were represented by newly minted Senator Jeff Tarte.  Rep Bill Brawley was there as a representative of the legislature's House Transportation Committee.

The major takeaways from the meeting were these:

  • HOT lanes would be a $500m project where only a small fraction of that cost, perhaps as little as only $50m - $125m, could do the job of relieving the bottlenecks in the Lake Norman area with general purpose lanes.
  • NCDOT's primary motivation for doing the project is to relieve congestion in downtown Charlotte, not Lake Norman.  However, Lake Norman commuters would be the primary payers of the project's tolls.
  • HOT lanes require congestion on the existing general purpose lanes to entice people to pay the toll.  This project will therefore do nothing to actually relieve congestion for existing commuters and will actually make the situation worse for many current users of the existing HOV lane since they will now be required to have 3 people in the future HOT lane to avoid the toll rather than only 2 in today's HOV lane.
  • Compared to other HOT lane examples around the country, the LKN area does not contain the population to make the project work financially.  This could lead to extremely high tolls in the future or an additional State bailout.

The meeting ran over two hours with the attached videos covering about 1:45.  The first covers the WidenI77.org group's presentation itself.  The second finishes the presentation and most of the QA.  The third includes comments from Rep Bill Brawley on the Legislature's take on the project.

The videos obviously speak for themselves, but maybe the most important comment of the evening came from Bill Brawley just after the recorder ran out of space.  While recalling how he was involved in stopping an unwanted road in the Matthews area as a councilman on the Matthews town board, he said it requires citizens to work on the State Legislature.  That was also the major point of this recent post here at aShortChronicle, Understand Whole Story on I-77 Toll Lanes.  Municipal leaders can are our best and most effective channel to the Legislature.  Use them for that purpose.

For those of us here in Davidson, Commissioners Graham, Fuller, and Venzon were present Monday night.  It was encouraging to see them there after a note sent to the Davidson Board regarding the meeting seemed to fall flat with Mayor Woods.  He described the citizen effort questioning HOT lanes as spreading "errors and wrong assumptions" and effectively wasting our state officials' time.

Judging by Rep Brawley's attentive comments, the presence of numerous other elected officials, and the active participation of NCDOT, the Davidson Mayor's perception seems to be far from reality on this one.

Video WidenI77.org Cornelius Town Hall  - January14, 2013
(Please excuse the shakiness. There are also a couple places with lost audio - just skip ahead a little.)

PART 1 - Presentation
3:45 - Cornelius Tranportation Advisory Board Member Kurt Naas put on a clinic on MUMPO, HOT, and I77.

PART 2 - Presentation Cont and QA
18:30 - Cornelius Mayor Lynette Rinker defends her non-position on HOT lanes.
32:50 - Lewis Mitchell of NCDOT makes comments on state toll efforts.

PART 3 - QA Cont and Rep Bill Brawley's Comments
10:30 - Cornelius Commissioner Gilroy wants study of alternatives before going forward.
12:30 - Huntersville Commissioner Julian opposes HOT.
14:30 - Rep Bill Brawley explains how we got where we are with this decision.

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