Why I oppose I-77 toll lanes: Nuclear safety

Today TollFreeNC and WidenI77 features Robert Ageenko, Commissioner Candidate for Cornelius.

AGEENKORobertIn the 1970s, I-77 was built as an evacuation route for the two nuclear stations in our region just as much as it was intended for a faster ride to and from Charlotte. For this reason, I have grave concerns about our safety when it comes to I-77 as a nuclear evacuation route.

You see, I am from Russia and knew people who worked in Chernobyl and died after the nuclear disaster. I personally knew the workers who helped to build the massive cover over the Chernobyl nuclear station in order to contain the radiation in case of a leak. Sadly, tens of thousands of those workers died after working on that cover. Millions of lives were lost and impacted in about a thousand mile radius. In fact, my uncle today is fighting cancer as a result of being a Chernobyl construction worker.

Two years after the Chernobyl disaster, I was in Kiev, Ukraine, for a one-month training for my job. Kiev is 60 miles from Chernobyl. Several people, including me, could taste the radiation two years after the disaster. It had a specific metallic flavor in your mouth.

Now all the area within a 20 miles radius of Chernobyl is closed off to the public. It is a place where you can find animals with two heads, or three eyes, and apples the size of melons. It is a scary place still today. And it will be for a thousand years.

All of us residents of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Charlotte live VERY close to TWO nuclear stations, not just one! We are within 50 miles of the Catawba and the McGuire nuclear stations. Many folks do not realize this. If something happens, as it happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima and other nuclear plants — we are screwed. Really screwed! Here’s a direct quote from Wikipedia, “According to a 2010 survey of energy accidents, there have been at least 56 accidents at nuclear reactors in the United States (defined as incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 of property damage).”

None of the pills the nuclear operators are providing to us will do much to help us — forget about the pills. Nothing will help, unless we RUN… Run, baby, run! It will be the one and only action that can help. Scary? Yes, it is scary. But when you are prepared and nothing negatively impacts your evacuation route, you have a better chance of survival.

North Carolina built a beautiful road (that few use) around Fayetteville for military reasons. Shouldn’t we build more lanes (NOT TOLL LANES) on I-77 to protect the millions of people who live in our region?

It is estimated to cost between $75 to $130 million for general purpose lanes to relieve the congestion between Huntersville and Mooresville. By adding one lane in each direction where it is needed, we will not need to redo 9 bridges and a flyover between I-77 and 277. That is a wasteful project that will be a road construction nightmare. It will eliminate an efficient evacuation route for several years. We need to do what is the fastest way to widen the road given our close proximity to two nuclear stations. That is by using existing public funds under Governor McCrory’s new transportation plan that would put I-77 at the top of the list for the funding of regular lanes, not toll lanes.

Robert Ageenko

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