Following is a statement by Representative Robert Brawley of the 95th district (Iredell) given at a press conference today. Rep. Brawley supports funding general purpose lanes and not toll lanes. We are very grateful for his support against tolls.
Representative C. Robert Brawley
NC House of Representatives
300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 303
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
Statement by Representative Robert Brawley Regarding I-77 HOT Lane Proposal
We are here today because new information that I had not seen before has been shared with me. Previously, my position for widening I-77 has been that while I strongly oppose toll roads, the only way we could afford to widen I-77 without delaying all transportation projects in the area was if we tolled I-77. However, over the last couple of days I have had the opportunity to meet with the public and research this issue in much more detail. What I see is that there clearly is a way to widen I-77 without toll lanes.
It is quite clear after further study and review that the NCDOT is taking a $100 million dollar solution and turning it into a $550 million problem. Common sense and fiscal responsibility is what is needed to solve this problem. Now that prioritization of transportation projects have changed, existing taxpayer funds are available, and I have heard the well-warranted concerns of the public, I am taking a new position and I ask other lawmakers and local leaders to do the same.
The problem on I-77 in this region is the bottleneck from Iredell toward Charlotte for approximately 14 miles that is only two lanes wide. We don’t need to add toll lanes for 27 miles all the way into Charlotte to fix this problem. Instead, we can add a lane in each direction. That gives us a 50% increase in capacity for less than $100 million. There is $170 million of taxpayer money available for the HOT lane proposal as it is presented. Therefore, we have the $100 million to add general purpose lanes to the area that needs to be widened. It does not make sense to pay $170 million of taxpayer funds (your money) for a $550 million toll road. In addition, we would be strapped to a 50 year contract with a private, for-profit company.
Why toll 27 miles and redo nine bridges when we can increase capacity by 50% by widening 14 miles and adding two bridges with no toll? We do not need to toll 27 miles for $550 million when 14 miles of general purpose lanes for $100 million solves our problem.
With the new criteria for road projects by the regional planning organization, known as MUMPO, and Governor McCrory’s new transportation plan, widening I-77 with general purpose lanes would be placed high on the priority list for utilizing existing public funds. Our problem with I-77 should be solved by common sense and not grand schemes that place an unfair burden on the public. I ask my fellow legislators to join me in saving the taxpayer funds, moving us forward in a manner that does not force tolls on the public who use I-77.
On May 22, MUMPO will be voting on amending their transportation plan that would enable the NCDOT to move forward with the toll proposal. I ask each city to meet, review all the options –- not just the NCDOT’s — and instruct their representative to vote in favor saving the people’s money, who elected them to represent the public’s interests. There have been many meetings about why HOT Lanes are the best or only option, but almost no meetings about other options or why the toll roads are not the best option. It’s time to listen to other options and consider a better solution. We are a representative government. Let the people be heard.
Do we solve the problem with $100 million tax dollars or do we add the expenses of time and redoing bridges to accommodate HOT lanes at $550 million? Three of four bidders on the HOT lanes are headquartered outside the U.S. – which to me, is another issue. However, today I want to focus on the issue at hand – which is simply that the toll roads are 1) an unfair burden on the public, 2) they will not ease congestion, and 3) they are not a wise way to spend tax dollars.
This issue of widening I-77 can be solved by common sense… and with existing funds that are available right now and today.
Representative Robert Brawley 95th NC House (919) 733-5741 (704) 658-8511
“Together We Can”