About that bonus money…

You may have heard recently about a “bonus” allocation of money allotted to our region as a reward for building toll lanes. The law that passed last summer requires the NCDOT to “make available” a bonus allocation equal to half of the project cost funded through toll revenue bonds, up to a maximum of $200 million. The actual amount is likely to be around $150 million.

Of course, this begs a couple questions. For years we have been told we must resort to toll lanes because of the state’s transportation funding woes. We simply do not have the money to widen I-77 in the traditional way. Where, then, are we getting the money for a $150 million shopping spree? And if tolling is such a great idea (like we heard this morning), why must the state resort to an additional “incentive”?

Let’s put aside the obvious for a moment and focus on the pragmatic. As you can imagine, local politicians are salivating at this windfall… perhaps a new interchange at Westmoreland in Cornelius, or a western bypass in Davidson.

Or maybe something else.

Because the question we should be asking is… who decides how the money will be spent? Is it the Lake Norman towns? After all, these are the folks who will be footing the bill for tolls.

The answer is ‘yes.’ Sort of. The allocation will be determined by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Organization, or CRTPO. You may have heard of their predecessor, MUMPO. They were the folks who back in 2010 decided widening I-77 was their 92nd priority. In other words, they got us into this mess in the first place.

What exactly are their priorities? Let’s put it this way: when then-Mayor Anthony Foxx needed his streetcar project to appear in a transportation plan so it would qualify for federal funding, they quickly amended theirs and put it at number three on the list.

CRTPO has a weighted voting structure. The Lake Norman towns- from Huntersville to Troutman- have a combined weighted vote of 11%. Charlotte’s vote counts for 46%. It is cast by a single person. The NCDOT and Mecklenberg County also cast votes. Combined with Charlotte, the three entities count for 51% of any vote. Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain also casts a vote representing the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Swain has been advocating tolls.

The initial discussion around the allocation process has been telling. During a presentation on the topic, Charlotte representative Vi Lyles questioned why the bonus money should be spent on I-77. She then questioned why a new process was needed at all. The presenter, Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe, said a new process was needed because the current plan did not anticipate the need for unique projects… like direct access to the toll lanes from Hambright road.

And Ned Curran, Chairman of the Board at NCDOT wondered about perception that the funds should be used for roads only.

According to one report, in what is becoming standard operating procedure we won’t know anything- the bonus amount, the project, or the process- until after the deal is finalized.

4 Responses to About that bonus money…

  1. Pattie Marshall says:

    OK keep the tolls BUT use this money to add another lane to I77 where the c ongestion occurs….in the Lake Norman area

  2. brent bolster says:

    Considering to potential toll cost reported thus far, those in power should think of this:
    1- How can two working parents needing to use I-77 possibly afford two $20 toll fees. Thats $100/week and $5000/year to them. That means they must earn ~$7600 extra money before taxes to keep even.
    2- Does any reasonable person think this will attract future business growth along this corridor?
    3- Will those in favor be affected by this unprecedented outrageous fee?
    4- Are those in power acting on behalf of who they are supposed to serve?
    5- Has the contractor Cintra been successful in past projects elsewhere?
    6- Will the middle class constituency needing I-77 access use the toll lanes?
    7- Who is really profiting from this proposal?
    8- Has NCDOT performed up to expectations in the past? Think of the Exit 28 diamond construction which has driven businesses out due to the unacceptable slowness to completion?
    9- Are politicians receiving donations from those developers involved if these decisions?
    10- Is there really a need for a new Exit 27 at Westmoreland or will this only serve to line the pockets of others? There is no strategic need for that exit considering whats developed on Statesville road the closest major intersection.

  3. Scott says:

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/09/22/5193183/gov-pat-mccrorys-road-plan-could.html

    No money for I-77 near LKN for 20 years? In one of, if not the most, congested commuter areas in the largest city in the state? And now this, all the sudden we have $1b for some of the lowest scoring projects in the state?

    $130m for a bypass around rockingham? Bypass what exactly out in the middle of nowhere??? $60m for road widening in Roanoke Rapids? Anyone think those folks are getting toll lanes?

    What a shitshow, I hope the people of LKN that elected Tillis/McCrory are enjoying this. Thanks guys!

  4. Betty says:

    Families simply cannot afford the tolls nor should they have to. NCDOT is widening 485 & 85 to 8 LANES WITHOUT TOLLS!! Why is LKN singled out for a toll? There are still far too many ‘unresolved issues’ with the planning, cost, toll charges etc. I am still in disbelief that this company has been allowed to go this far with so much ‘murky water’. No Plans – No Worry -our politicians will let you do whatever you want! What price did you pay them?? We can still have our say —- REMEMBER THEM ALL ON ELECTION DAY.

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