Question: If CRTPO says there’s no money to widen I-77 through LKN, how can they find $300M for a Bridge to Nowhere?
Answer: they can find the money if Charlotte wants it.
That’s what happened at last night’s Charlotte Regional Transportation Organization (CRTPO) meeting. CRTPO approved a resolution to designate the Catawba River Crossing corridor as a numbered NC road. It’s an important step for the project to eventually be scored, ranked and funded.
This $300M boondoggle would connect I485 near the airport to, uhhh, a two lane road dirt road in Gaston County. On the Mecklenburg side it would make a convenient onramp for the huge River District development being built near the Whitewater Center. On the Gaston side there’s a proposal for 3000+ homes near where the road connects. The Catawba river is split where the route is proposed, so the project requires two bridges.
In a stark display of electile dysfunction, twelve delegates voted against the project and only four voted for it. But in the upside-down world of CRTPO democracy, all votes are not equal; they are weighted based on population. Charlotte’s lone delegate counts for 46% of the vote.
So when Charlotte delegate Vi Lyles voted for the project, it was virtually a fait accompli. (Lyles pointed out she had a directed vote from the City Council, so this was Charlotte’s vote not hers.) NCDOT Division 12 delegate John Pope voted for it despite every municipality in his division voting against. The towns of Monroe and Matthews voted “for” despite the project having nothing to do with Monroe and Matthews.
NCDOT Division 10 delegate Tracy Dodson abstained because of a conflict of interest with her real estate business. (Why an unelected delegate has a vote at all is one thing; how said delegate could be a land developer, NCDOT board member, and normally vote on road issues is another matter altogether.)
For the record, the North Meck delegation of Jim Puckett, Mark Gibbons, Woody Washam and Beth Cashion held firmly against. Unfortunately their vote combined for a little over 10%.
So let’s put this recent vote into perspective:
CRTPO, ruled by the Queen City, is moving toward spending $300M tax dollars for a project whose primary merit is connecting one real estate development to another. Meanwhile, up here in Lake Norman, with most congested four-lane in the state, we’re told we must be gouged for 50 years because the state doesn’t have the money. And remember, last year we were told an I-77 cancellation fee of- coincidentally- $300M would cause a cataclysm in transportation spending. No such apocalyptic warnings for the River Crossing project.
You’ll pardon us if we find the whole “no money for I77” argument a joke. We would be laughing except back in 2013 we had a once-in-a-decade opportunity to fix CRTPO but every LKN town board voted for another ten years of transportation futility. Oh, and every LKN town board also voted for the toll project.
So maybe the joke is on us. For fifty years.