Despite Concerns, NCDOT Signs Contract
Following is our press release regarding NCDOT’s decision to complete the commercial close of the contract:
Cornelius, N.C. – June 26, 2014 – Despite serious questions surrounding the viability and effectiveness of the proposed toll lanes on interstate 77, the NCDOT closed the commercial portion of the contract today. The NCDOT and Cintra, a Spanish firm chosen to build and operate the toll lanes under a 50 year agreement, hope to finalize the contract by the end of 2014.
“The NCDOT continues to charge ahead with this project and ignore legitimate concerns being raised by citizens and local legislators,” said Kurt Naas, a spokesman for Widen I-77. “After the NCDOT sent us their analysis showing $20 tolls, they quickly walked it back saying the numbers they sent were outdated.” The NCDOT has not provided any updated toll or traffic estimates.
Local commissioners shared Naas’ concern, and less than 72 hours after the NCDOT’s estimates became public a majority of commissioners from the Lake Norman towns (Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson) sent a memo to the governor requesting postponement. One commissioner noted “an unprecedented avalanche” of emails from his constituents. The issue has been featured prominently in local news outlets.
“This project has been characterized by inconsistency, misrepresentation and a disregard for the taxpayer’s money,” Naas said. He went on to cite a number of examples:
- Transportation Secretary Tata touted the project as a “comprehensive solution to existing and future congestion” despite the NCDOT’s internal analysis showing commute times doubling within the next twenty years.
- In their official report to the legislature, the NCDOT stated Cintra’s project in Texas had a “significant amount of cash on hand” even though the project faces imminent bankruptcy and was downgraded to junk bond status by Moody’s.
- The same report stated Cintra will bear “substantial financial risk” despite up to $12 million/yr in taxpayer subsidies for any shortfall in toll revenue. The bonds issued for the project will be backed by the taxpayer.
- Over $150 million will be spent on items solely related to the tolling aspects of the project, including $51 million for tolling equipment and $55 million for overhead and consultants.
“Until the NCDOT and Cintra start coming clean on toll rates and congestion, our legislators should flatly oppose this project,” Naas added. The NCDOT has said this information will be made public after the contract is signed. “That’s absurd,” Naas said. “You don’t take out a mortgage without knowing what your monthly payment is going to be.”