Cornelius, NC June 23, 2015 – The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted Monday, June 22nd to respectfully request that the contract between the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and I-77 Mobility Partners be terminated as soon as reasonably possible and that an alternative source of funding be secured to widen I-77 in the Lake Norman region.
The Chamber, which represents more than 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region recently polled its membership on the issue of the tolls. The poll sent out by president Bill Russell to chamber members had a participation rate of just over 20% with 94% in opposition to the tolls and 6% favoring the Public-Private Partnership with I-77 Mobility Partners. Russell was quick to respond that the poll was not a true sampling of the membership, but gave the Board of Directors an opportunity to hear from the membership. A number of businesses have also provided feedback through telephone calls, emails, and in person, he added.
Chamber Board Chair Mike Russell released the following statement, “I am pleased to announce, after thoughtful consideration, debate and input from our membership, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has adopted a resolution supporting efforts to stop the tolling of I-77. My feelings on this matter are well known – the managed lane concept for widening I-77 is the wrong funding method, period. I am proud to add the Lake Norman Chamber to the business and political leaders working to craft an equitable solution that will benefit all residents and businesses of the Lake Norman Region.”
The next step according to Lake Norman Chamber president Bill Russell is to join other regional business and community leaders in a trip to Raleigh next week to meet with the state legislature. “We want to share with our elected leadership and transportation planners the concerns we have and the significant economic consequences this project could have on the Lake Norman region. Our lake region is unique and unlike other areas in the state. Given the close proximity of towns and exits, I-77 is a ‘local road.’ The lake which has 520 miles of shoreline and covers 32,500 acres limits any north-south transportation movement. While managed lanes and tolls may be a solution in other parts of the state, they are not the best solution for Lake Norman.”
Senator Jeff Tarte had this to say regarding the Lake Norman Chamber’s resolution: “I look forward to receiving the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce resolution addressing the I-77 managed lanes project. It is important that the business community clearly communicate their position to members of the North Carolina General Assembly regarding the widening of the interstate highway through the Lake Norman region. I plan to take the resolutions from the local municipalities, Mecklenburg County and the Chamber to Raleigh and fulfill my commitment to file legislation to stop the use of tolling in the Lake Norman area.”
A copy of the Chamber’s full resolution is below:
LAKE NORMAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RESOLUTION REQUESTING THE TERMINATION OF THE CONTRACT WITH “I-77 MOBILITY PARTNERS” TO TOLL I-77 FOR 50 YEARS and SUBSEQUENT REQUEST FOR ALTERNATIVE FUNDING
WHEREAS, Interstate 77 (I-77) is a critical transportation artery connecting the four lake towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Mooresville to the City of Charlotte; and
WHEREAS, the citizens, businesses owners, and employees are dependent on I-77 as a primary road for access to education, healthcare, commerce, arts and culture, quality of life and economic development; and
WHEREAS, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has consistently advocated for the widening of I-77 since the inception of the Chamber of Commerce in 1987; and
WHEREAS, the Lake Norman Chamber encouraged local and state elected officials, as well as transportation planners, to consider a funding option such as York County’s (SC) Pennies for Progress which would provide for General Purpose Lanes through a local tax option as recently as July 2014; and
WHEREAS, it was represented to the Chamber by agents of the NC Department of Transportation and other public officials that the only option for widening I-77 in the next twenty-five years was through a Public-Private Partnership and High Occupancy Toll lanes as recently as May 2015; and
WHEREAS, Governor Pat McCrory seeks a bond referendum that could fund widening of I-77 with general purpose lanes without a 50 year toll lane contract; and
WHEREAS, a recent poll of the Lake Norman Chamber’s 1,000 members with 20% participating indicated 94% are opposed to High Occupancy Toll Lanes; and
WHEREAS, the Chamber’s corporate, real estate, service and retail industries, as well as other regional business owners have actively spoken out against the toll lane plan making a compelling case that tolls on I-77 may impair economic development and small business growth to a much greater degree than the potential penalties imposed for cancelling the contract with I-77 Mobility Partners; and
WHEREAS, North Carolina State Senator Jeff Tarte and Representative John Bradford have indicated they are willing to carry the message to our State Leadership and General Assembly that this contract is not in the best interest of our business community and region.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and the greater Lake Norman Region support the efforts of our local towns and delegations in Raleigh, headed by Senator Tarte, Representatives Bradford and Jeter, to find alternate sources of funding, and respectfully ask that the planned 50 year toll contract for I-77 between NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners be terminated by NCDOT and the widening of I-77 with general purpose lanes begin as soon as reasonably possible.
Adopted this 22nd day of June, 2015.
Mike Russell, 2015 Board Chair
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