Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Accountability Time for Davidson's Board on HOT Lanes

Last week, Kurt Naas posted some shocking information over at regarding the selected proposal from Cintra to widen I77 with HOT lanes.  It took a Freedom of Information Act request and enlisting the help of WSOC TV to get this information out of NCDOT, and it's not hard to imagine why.  The numbers are absolutely horrible!

  • $20+ initial daily tolls to travel the length of the HOT lanes with tolls rising to $40+ per day by the end of the project
  • $13 BILLION in tolls collected over the life of the project
  • $75 million in guaranteed revenue from the State if the toll revenue falls short

In this information we also find out some disappointing details.

  • Only one proposal was received for the project.  That is the real reason Cintra was picked. They were the only team to submit a proposal!  (Four teams were originally selected to bid on the project, but only one proposal was submitted.  That means three of the four teams couldn't make the numbers work!)
  • The entrance and exit points still are not set in stone and can be changed.  That is one of the most important details of the entire project for people to determine if it is beneficial to them.  (One thing we do know is that the proposed entrance/exit points do not directly benefit Davidson.)
  • Traffic is expected to double in the existing free lanes.  The HOT lanes will provide no congestion relief for the average driver.  Instead, they guarantee to make it worse.
See the WSOC report here and read the original piece at WidenI77 here.

So, what should Davidson residents expect from our Commissioners in face of all this new information?

During the last election cycle Davidson Commissioners Fuller, Graham, and Jenest along with former Commissioner Connie Wessner all endorsed the idea of HOT lanes in this joint editorial on the project just before election day last fall - "Davidson incumbents weigh in on I-77 toll issue" .

Here's the meat of their position back then:

  • HOT Lanes are a reasonable solution to address the "asphyxiating" congestion on I77. (Is it reasonable to support a solution with outrageous tolls the average citizen can not afford and results in doubling congestion in the general purpose lanes?)
  • Opponents of HOT Lanes do so only for political purposes and not out of concern for the regions long-term welfare.  (Apparently, according to these Commissioners opposing a bad idea simply because it is a bad idea must be political.  The irony of this position is that it was espoused in a political editorial just before an election.) 
  • "The Town of Davidson – by law – could not re-paint a single stripe on Interstate 77, even if we were armed with a unanimous board resolution, paint brushes and a can of yellow paint."  Meaning, Davidson's Board has no direct responsibility for I77, so taking an official position as a Board is meaningless. (Davidson's Board recently passed two unanimous resolutions about Duke Power coal ash and the Common Core education standards - issues where they possess zero official authority or responsibility.  Were those resolutions meaningless?  A lack of authority did not prevent the current Board from expressing an opinion on the State's proposed actions on these issues, and the Board should not continue to hide behind a supposed lack of authority on the HOT Lanes issue just because that issue is unpopular.) 

Davidson's new commissioners, Stacey Anderson and Beth Cashion, both expressed reservations about the HOT lanes plan during the last election cycle.  For them, more information was needed to make a fully informed decision.

Well, now we have it.

Or, more correctly we have a much better idea of how truly bad this project likely will be.  According to NCDOT immediately began walking back its own numbers when faced with a little scrutiny.

In light of all this Davidson's Board should finally take an official position on the HOT lanes project.  The Board should pass a resolution asking for a delay in signing a contract until reliable figures are provided that NCDOT is willing to stand behind.

The Davidson Board has one more chance to meet before the end of June and go on record regarding this most important decision for our region since the creation of Lake Norman itself.

The only question is will they take it?

Bonus Observation:  The town board is currently on summer hiatus as far as its 4th Tuesday work sessions are concerned.  In order for the Board to meet and actually pass a resolution a "Special Meeting" would have to be called with adequate notice since this is not on the previously announced schedule.  There is time to do it if the meeting is announced on Friday.  There is precedent for this type of meeting however.  The Board did call a special meeting on short notice when trying to push through four year terms in 2012.  We here at aShortChronicle had brought an issue to their attention regarding that effort and they called the meeting.  See articles here and here.

Odds of that happening here on something that is more uncomfortable?  Slim to none. 

No comments:

Post a Comment