A Little History of How We Got Here
April 2009 - Fast Lanes study published. I-77 through Lake Norman identified as a top candidate for tolling.
November 2009 - Barry Moose, NCDOT Div 10 Engineer, says widening I-77 should be “top priority.” No mention of toll lanes. Estimated cost of adding lanes from exit 23 to exit 28: $50M.
Mar 2010 - MUMPO publishes 2035 LRTP. Widening I-77 comes in at #93 on priority list.
April 2010 - LNTC votes unanimous support of HOT lanes. Project is $64M, requires $22M of gap (public) funding.
October 2010 - HOT lanes lose TIGER II (stimulus) funding.
Feb 2011 - Moose reports he “has identified enough money where he can four-lane I-77 all the way to Catawba.” One of those lanes would be a HOT lane in either direction. Cornelius Board briefed by Kurt Naas.
May 2011 - First interest in private partnership for HOT lanes made public. Project expected to cost $64M “but could be delayed if state broadens scope.”
October 2011 - Transportation Secretary Gene Conti visits Charlotte. Says converting HOV lanes “could cost as much as $200M.”
June 2012 - Moose says taxpayers “could end up paying a one time subsidy of $25- $110M.”
June 2012 - NC Legislature passes H1077. Allows NCDOT to enter into contracts with private companies to operate toll roads.
August 2012 - Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy introduces resolution requesting LNTC study general purpose lane alternatives to HOT lanes. Naas pitches GP lanes and Gilroy’s resolution to Cornelius Town Board. Is told GP lanes cannot be built due to environmental reasons. Board does not vote on resolution.
September 2012 - Naas pitches GP lanes and Gilroy’s resolution to Cornelius Town Board. Board does not vote on resolution.
September 2012 – “Pork” added to project bumping cost to an estimated $513M.
October/November 2012 – Inaction by elected leaders generates public concern about rising cost and concept of P3/HOT. WidenI77.org formed. Project cost now estimated at $550 million including $170 million in public funding.
January 2013 - Cornelius Transportation Advisory Board recommends the Town Board adopt Gilroy’s resolution. Wideni77.org holds public information session. Over 100 attend on a rainy Monday night.
January 2013 - The following morning Senator Jeff Tarte tweets from Raleigh, “based upon morning meetings I expect I-77 to be tolled.”
January 2013 - Three days later Iredell County Commissioners replace “HOT lanes” with “general purpose lanes” in their transportation plan. Unanimously vote support for general purpose lanes.
Jan 2013 - The following week, Cornelius Town Board unanimously passes Gilroy’s resolution.
February 2013 - Lake Norman Mayors organize 1:1 closed-door meetings between commissioners and NCDOT/HOT lane consultants.
February 2013 - LNTC hosts meeting featuring ‘managed lanes expert’ consultant.
February 2013 - Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce host Focus Friday meeting on HOT lanes. Naas represents wideni77.org, Bill Thunberg represents LNTC. Afterwards Chamber says it is “reconsidering earlier support for HOT lanes.”
February 2013 - Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain organizes 1:1 sessions between Chamber Board members and NCDOT/HOT lane consultants.
March 2013 - NCDOT hosts ‘planning charrette,’ a meeting where the public is invited to comment on the HOT lane plan. It is held at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.
March 2013 - LNTC hosts meeting featuring NCDOT officials, ‘managed lanes expert’ consultant.
March 2013 - Mecklenburg GOP passes resolution calling for study of alternatives to toll lanes.
March 2013 - WidenI77 members travel to Raleigh to meet with NC Legislators.
March 2013 - N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis declares in no uncertain terms that toll lanes are the only way to widen I-77 in the next 20 years.
April 2013 - State road policy is under review, and the role of toll roads going forward is uncertain.
April 2013 - MUMPO hosts two public input meetings…..from 5 to 7pm on a Wednesday & Thursday
April 2013 - Charlotte Tea Party, asks Mecklenburg County legislators to consider other alternatives
April 2013 - Widen I77 requests 30 minutes on the MUMPO agenda for a powerpoint presentation outlining the General Purpose lane position. Limited to 10 minutes in citizen comment time.
May 2013 - N.C. Rep’s. Robert Brawley of Mooresville and Larry Pittman of Concord announce opposition to a proposed state plan for high-occupancy toll lanes
May 2013 - In a split vote, Mayor Rinker casts the deciding one for Cornelius to endorse the HOT lane plan at the MUMPO meeting
May 2013 - A Map of other proposed HOT lanes in the Charlotte area – U.S. 74 East between Charlotte and Matthews, and I-485 South between Pineville and Matthews, will be the focal study corridors in Phase III. In addition, existing bus lanes on Independence Boulevard are also proposed for conversion to HOT lanes.
May 2013 - The Triangle Expressway is touted by HOT lane proponents in Mecklenburg County as a success story. The facts say otherwise.
May 2013 - Prior to MUMPO vote to add HOT lane project to the Long Range Transportation plan, Chairwoman Sarah MacAulay ends the citizen comment time without allowing citizens to speak in opposition of the plan. The plan- including tolls- passes unanimously, including representatives from the LKN towns.
May 2013 - Speaker of the House Thom Tillis demands Robert Brawley’s resignation as Chair of the Finance Committee
May 2013 - Speaker of the House Thom Tillis holds disciplinary session for Larry Pittman.
May 2013 - Sen Jeff Tarte of Cornelius indicates Governor McCrory’s newly proposed “Strategic Mobility Fund” criteria intended to replace the Equity Formula created in 1989 will focus on projects that address traffic congestion and bottlenecks of regional or statewide significance – which could reopen I-77 discussions
June 2013 - Volunteers attend the NCGOP Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center and raise awareness with flyers, petitions & signs
June 2013 - N.C Republican Party added language opposing state highway tolls to its 2013-14 party platform. The party’s executive committee voted overwhelmingly against tolls
June 2013 - Ignoring the part platform passed days before, the GOP-led NC House votes to continue moving forward with tolls.
July 2013 - NCDOT holds two open houses / public hearings, Mooresville & Charlotte. Speakers questioned the profitability of other toll projects across the country. In response, David Ungemah, national managed -lanes director for global consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, said 17 of the 18 HOT projects across the country generate revenue that exceeds their operational and maintenance costs. Our research suggests that is not true (read here)
January 2014- CRTPO includes a project to widen I-77 with general purpose lanes from exit 28 to exit 36 in their transportation plan (TIP) Because it is included in a tip, it is not subject to the contract’s non-compete clause.
August, 2014 – NC DOT chief of staff, Bobby Lewis, acknowledges toll rates won’t be known until the last minute.
August, 2014 – Private meetings held with local officials, toll proponents. Residents raise concerns about being excluded
September, 2014 – LKN Chamber debates managed lanes impact
October, 2014 – NCDOT-Cintra expands I-77 plans to widen 27 miles
October 2014 – Affiliate of Cintra of Spain files for bankruptcy over similar toll project in Indiana
November, 2014 – Spokesperson Jen Thompson for NCDOT states Cintra’s recent bankruptcy filing should not affect its ability to obtain financing.
December, 2014 – Representative of Cintra’s I-77 Mobility Partners acknowledges that the deadline looms for financial close of toll lanes. The deadline of 200 is January 22, 2015. The company must provide approvals and documents. Mobility Partners spokesperson states the anticipated “closing is on schedule.”
December 10, 2014 – Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (MUMPO’s sucessor) narrows down road construction projects to be funded by bonus money provided by the state to areas with managed lanes. Bill Coxe, Huntersville transportation director said, “At this point, putting tolls for transportation projects is not the most politically popular thing to do. This is how to help elected officials be more OK if they are getting money back for things important to them.”
December, 2014 – I-485 lane is closed for 5 years which also challenges the NCDOT decisions.
January 2015 – WIDEN I-77 files lawsuit, holds press conference at law offices of Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte at Mecklenburg Superior Court seeking to halt the $655 million project. The 18 page law suit address the technical constitutional and contract issues. The suit questions the state’s contract with Cintra which illegally delegates state powers to a private company. The suit argues that the state can’t spend tax dollars on the project because it doesn’t serve a public purpose. The contract doesn’t set out any rate limits and “essentially leaves Mobility Partners with unfettered discretion in setting toll rates.”
January, 2015 Cintra misses deadline for financial close is supposed to forfeit a $15 million security deposit. NCDOT extends deadline to April at taxpayer expense.
January-February, 2015 – WI77 holds series of community meetings in Huntersville, Cornelius and Mooresville which were well attended. Thousands of petitions have been signed to take to Raleigh in March. Business partnerships are being pursued. Donations are mounting for lawyer fees.
March 2015 US DOT Credit Council reviewed the project financing request and invited partners to submit a final application
March, 2015 Hearing in Alamance County Courthouse in Graham, NC to hear testimony of temporary injunction to stop toll lanes project. Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith presided. Spokesperson and founder, Kurt Naas testifies for 2 ½ hours.
March, 2015 Judge denies preliminary injunction – motion denied against stopping the $655 million project.
At this hearing the lawyers for Mobility Partners (Cintra) stated that they would meet the April financial close deadline or would cancel the contract.
March 2015 Letter sent to TIFIA Joint Program Office to Mr. Callendar by Kurt Naas questions contractual revenue sharing provisions. TIFIA postpones I-77 project review.
March 2015 Senator Jeff Tart files Senate Bill 639 Transportation Funding Bill which includes to prohibit the construction of toll projects unless authorized pursuant to a local government referendum. Bill goes nowhere.
March 2015 NC Open Government Coalition names Kurt Naas Citizen of the Year.
April, 2015 Moorvesille Tribune article stated Robert Pittenger ….”Toll roads have also been a disservice to the people in the region and the state.”
April 2015 Widen I-77 holds community meeting held in Cornelius.
April, 2015 NCDOT extends financial close deadline a second time.
April, 2015 TIFIA approves $189 million in federal loans to I-77 Mobility Partners.
April , 2015 Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis is appointed to the board of the NC Turnpike Authority, the body responsible for rolling out toll roads across the state.
April 2015 After two “special meetings” con the subject of I77 financing, the Local Government Council approves an additional $105 million in bonds to be sponsored by the NCDOT on behalf of I77 Mobility Partners.
April 2015 NCDOT extends financial close deadline third time.
May 1, 2015 100+ protestors march at Exit 28 bridge in Cornelius 4:30-6:30.
May, 2015 Media picks up story about non-compete clause inserted into the contract by NCDOT two years ago.
May 4, 2015 Cornelius unanimously passes unanimously resolution asking the state to delay for 90 days finalizing a toll contract, saying they were unaware that the contract has a noncompete clause.
May 6, 2015 NCDOT announced it will move forward despite concerns from local officials. Local ewspaper headline: “Alter Clause elicits reaction to toll lanes plan…Quiet removal of possible new lanes north of Cornelius even surprised road planning insiders.”
May 11, 2015 Huntersville unanimously passes a resolution to demand answers to the NCDOT contract changes. Ron Julian was absent.
May 13, 2015 Mooresville mayor, Miles Atkins joins the growing number of Lake Norman-area elected officials in calling on the state to delay the financial closing on planned toll lanes.
May 13, 2015. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce releases video supporting toll lanes.
May 15, 2015 100 most powerful women in Lake Norman was announced and Mary Lou Richardson, Carole Gibbons, Sharon Hudson and Vallee Bubak were recognized as leaders in local issues. All are members of the Widen-I-77 group.
May 17, 2015 In my Opinion in Charlotte Observer by Washburn “Bulldozer Approach to Toll Lane” This article focused on the idea…it’s too late…
May 17, 2015 Statesville Landmark and Record “Hot debate: To toll or not to toll? “ by Preston Spencer. No-shows from NCDOT at meetings. Iredell County meeting… Warren Cooksey, former Charlotte city councilman who is now director of outreach and community affairs for DOT, said “he didn’t know where to go.”
May 18, 2015 Charlotte Observer “Charlotte quiet on toll lanes others are opposing” by Steve Harrison Mayor Dan Clodfelter said city officials do not plan to discuss the issue. Council member, Al Austin, hasn’t studied the issue in detail. He has concerns that “the toll lanes are for the rich.”
May 18, 2015 Mooresville passes resolution requesting a full explanation from the NCDOT
May 19, 2015 Mecklenburg County passes resolution urging Gov. McCrory to delay by 90 days next week’s closing of a financial contract to build toll lanes. Commissioner Jim Puckett says, “There are a million and a half people in Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties. If you ignore their wishes, you do so at your own political peril.”
May 19, 2015 Iredell County passes similar resolution.
May 20, 2015 NCDOT announces financial close.. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett says, “This is the single most insulting and arrogant act of governance I have witnessed in my 18 years of politics.”
May 23, 2015 Group of citizens travel to Raleigh and petition with over 5000 names on petitions to stop the tolls. Since Gov. McCrory would not meet with them, they present to his office staff
May 27, 2015 Lake Norman Citizen reports crews are set to begin work as early as next Wednesday. Works does not begin until six months later.
May 2015 Michael Waltrip Racing in Cornelius hosts a meeting of 150 local business owners and managers. The I-77 Business Plan created by John “Mac” McAlpine and Commissioner Jim Puckett. This was an emergency “Call to Action.” Mac stated that “our way of life & jobs are at stake. Race City, Mooresville, will become a has-been.
Senator Jeff Tarte presents a draft of a bill that would use money from an upcoming bond package, but will not file the bill until he has sufficient support from local businesses.
June 2015 At Cornelius Town Board meeting Naas seeks town financial support against toll lanes. Suggests taking the $21 M dedicated to LNTC and apply to legal action. This was taken under advisement in closed session. More than 20 people presented their views. Commissioners approved a resolution to immediately terminate the contract.
June 2015 Lake Norman Citizen publishes article “The bell is tolling for anti-toll bullies” by Lori Helms- claims Widen I-77 made threatening phone call to Huntersville commissioner Sarah McAulay,
June 2015 WI77 sets up booth at Davidson Business Expo at Davidson College campus.
June 2015 WI77 holds fundraiser – 50/50 & auction at Lucky Dog Bark and Brew in Cornelius. Food by Prosciutto’s was donated and proceeds of sales were donated to fund the lawsuit.
June 9, 2015 Davidson Town board passes resolution questioning toll project
June 13, 2015 Gov. McCrory announces that “It’s too late to cancel I-77 toll lanes project” in Charlotte Observer by Joe Marusak “Some of them voted for it two or three years ago. Opposing the project now may be to cover themselves politically.” “Cancelling the contract now would cost the state $50 M to $100 M.”
June 15, 2015 Cornelius today reports that online polls conducted by Cornelius Today indicated over 90% were in favor of imposing a moratorium. Assistant Town Cornelius Town manager in a memo states “It appears nobody has a clear understanding of a key component in the 50-year contract with a Spanish Company. “
June 16, 2015 Mecklenburg County passes resolution to requesting termination of contract and request for alternative funding. Commissioner Dumont Clark is sole dissenting vote.
Iredell County passes similar resolution
June 16, 2015 McAlpine addresses 75 business people and residents at the Business Today and Cornelius Today Newsmakers Breakfast at the Peninsula Club to explain the situation.
June 16, 2015 Davidson passes softened resolution after more than an hour of input from regional residents, followed by an hour of discussion to standing room only audience. Commissioner Jim Fuller sends a message to support Sen Tart & Rep Bradford as they explore legislative options. The vote is anti-climatic.
June 18, 2015 Rusty Rudder Fundraiser holds fundraiser- percentage of sales to support lawsuit
June 18, 2015 NCDOT asks judge to dismiss the legal complaint by WidenI-77 because they feel “the project and the Comprehensive Agreement fully comply with AALL applicable law.”June 20, 2015 Cookout at Hubbard Farms Fundraiser in Huntersville
June, 2015 I77 Mobility Partners (Cintra) mails slick PR brochures to all citizens in NC and some in SC. False claims reported as a complaint to Attorney General.
June, 22, 2015 21-member board of Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce urged NCDOT to cancel the contract. This followed a poll of 1000 businesses according to the president, Bill Russell. 200 participants represented area industries, 94% said they were against it.
June 30, 2015 Business leaders travel by bus to Raleigh to have meetings with key legislators.
July , 2015 Rusty Rudder Hot dog eating contest-FR
July, 2015 Victory Lane Karting in Charlotte Fundraiser all day
Many articles RE: Business involvement
“Beyond the Great Toll Lanes Debate” by Eric Frazier
“Senate bill deemed threat to tolls suit” Jonathan McFadden
“ Business Leaders Make Case Against Toll Road Opponents of I-77 Project urge NCDOT or lawmakers to cancel contract” Carolina Journal ”Lake Norman Business Leaders Deem Raleigh Visit A Success”
“Humpy Wheeler: Toll plan won’t work”
July 13, 2015 CRTPO meeting- over 50 attend & 19 speak against tolls. Over 750 anti-toll emails sent. CRTPO votes for tolls.
July 2015 Galway Hooker FR/auction 6 pm live music
November 2015 Pro-toll Huntersville Mayor loses election by 20 points to John Aneralla. Three pro-toll comissioners ousted including former CRTPO Chair Sarah MacAulay.
November 2015 Rep Jeter holds “toll summit” with local leaders and NCDOT. Cintra announces construction will start three days later.
November 2015 Construction begins.
December 2015 LKN Chamber recognizes Widen I-77 with Distinguished Service award.
December 2015 Federal Highway Authority requests public input in the quadrennial review of CRTPO’s public input process. Over 500 emails sent and 30+ citizens speak, most in the
December 2015 Attorney General sends Investigative Demand to I77MP regarding statements made in advertising and public hearings.
January 2016 Charlotte votes for toll project despite receiving petition with 12,000 signatures, $9,000 half page ad, packed house of hundreds, and 43 citizens speaking (only two are pro-toll).
January 2016 Judge rules against Widen I77 saying it is not court’s place to determine the merits of a project.
January 2016 CRTPO receives dinner presentation from NCDOT, told cancellation cost could reach $300M based “official estimate.” CRTPO, led by Charlotte, votes for tolls.
February 2016 FHWA re-certifies CRTPO’s public input process as exemplary. Recommends Citizen Advisory Board, which CRTPO ignores.
June 2016 NC House votes 81-27 to cancel contract. Bill crosses over to Senate.
July 2016 NC Senators Berger & Rucho do not allow bill to head to committee. Bill dies in the Senate.