Wednesday, NC Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata delivered a pep talk at The Charlotte Chamber aimed at building support for the toll lanes he plans to put on 1-77 here.
"The main reason that people should support this is that it provides congestion relief," he said.
But critics worry it won't – they fear the tolls will cost too much, and at this point Tata can't reassure them. He says even he doesn't know how much the tolls will be.
The fares will be set by a Spain-based company contracted to run the tolls for 50 years. "Once they get the public feedback and see what the market will bare, that's when they'll…that's when we'll know what the managed lane will cost," Tata said.
Lake Norman resident Kurt Naas doesn't buy it. He thinks DOT execs and the toll company must have some idea of what they'll charge. "Somewhere there has to be a revenue estimate that someone is standing behind to get the loans for this," Naas says.
And while Tata says the deal is done, Naas, head of a toll opposition group called Widen I-77, doesn't believe that either.
"We're in the late innings of this, but until the graders start grading, this is not a done deal," Naas says.
He's holding a meeting Thursday night at Cornelius town Hall.
"In fact, that is the focus of the evening's agenda," Naas told WBTV Thursday afternoon. "To give people more opportunities to get involved than just the core group that we have working here. Clearly, there's widespread opposition to it, and we're confident of that, and we need to tap into that."
He says he'll reveal a plan to galvanize the public.
"There are a number of ways that citizens can become involved and make their voices heard and put a stop to this project," Naas says.
It was standing room only at the meeting. There were lots of things the crowd didn't like about the project from the possible cost per toll, where the exits would be, and the information collected by Cintra, like you social security number, financial information and medical data.
"I have no idea why you need medical data to drive down a highway," said Naas to the crowd.
Jennifer Davis lives in Huntersville.
"That just seems a little bit extreme to be on the toll road that they would need that kind of information from us," said Davis.
This was the first time she sat down to hear the details of the project. And now she doesn't support it.
Warren Cooksey works for NCDOT as the director of outreach.
"That's my number one takeaway from this conversation is this issue about the patron information now the contract has been signed and it public," said Cooksey.
He said this isn't a proposal it's a done deal.
"The contract was signed June 26th this is going forward for construction over the next four years," said Cooksey.
Widen I-77 is asking people to write to Governor McCrory to put a stop to it. And they want people to donate the equivalent of a possible one round trip toll, 20 bucks, to go towards a $20,000 injunction to stop construction.
"I can't speak to what courts may do," said Cooksey.
"We will make sure that it gets done," said Marylou Richardson, a member of Widen I-77, "We're not stopping the battle."