Cintra Begins Construction Without Required Permit
Widen I-77 has come into possession of an NCDOT memo requesting approval from the Lake Norman Maritime Commission for the I-77 toll project. Construction over (or even near) Lake Norman apparently requires a byzantine approval process of 13 government agencies, and the project’s northern segment crosses Lake Norman over two causeways.
It looks like Cintra “forgot” to check a box: the Lake Norman Maritime Commission.
The contract requires NCDOT to assist Cintra in obtaining all necessary approvals. Presumably that explains why NCDOT sent a memo requesting the Commission approve the project at their upcoming June 13th meeting. As support, NCDOT cited the Environmental Assessment (EA) performed for the Feds back in October 2013. That document found the toll lanes had “no significant impact” on the environment.
The problem with that assessment is that it’s a joke:
Logically, for a 50 year contract the EA should look at the impact of the project’s life, i.e. until 2068. But the EA’s time horizon stops at 2017. That’s not a typo: the EA’s assessment of the toll lanes’ impact ends a year before the project opens.
Then there’s the inconvenient matter of the contract, which requires Cintra to obtain all necessary approvals before construction begins:
Despite this, Cintra went ahead and started construction on the section anyway:
We hope the Maritime Commission will fulfill its charter “for taking appropriate responsibility for Lake Norman and its shoreline area for all matters relating to or affecting public recreation and water safety.” This would include demanding a realistic environmental assessment. But given the history of this project, you’ll pardon our cynicism if this isn’t another perfunctory box-checking exercise.