I-77 Local Advisory group looking at compromise for changing project

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The local advisory group working to make changes to the I-77 widening and toll lane project had its final meeting on Thursday afternoon in Cornelius, and this meeting included the state Secretary of Transportation.

Many in the group want to change the contract that would put toll lanes on I-77.  Their favored recommendations include changing the project to include three general purpose, or free lanes, and one toll lane.

"I think it's also important to understand that this group has embraced the idea of accepting a toll road even if they don't want it, as a means of getting out of this," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett. "To ignore it, you do so at your own peril both politically and economically."

"We're trying to compromise a little bit in giving the one toll lane," added Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

10 of the 12 members of the group favored the 3-1 idea. The representatives from the Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte City Council said the project should move forward as planned.

Thursday's meeting was the last one of this group involving lawmakers and business leaders from Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties and several communities.

Secretary Jim Trogdon listened to the concerns of each member, then vowed to analyze the options presented and get back with the group in July.

"That's my pledge," he said. "I want to provide a road map."

Trogdon did say that each recommendation had merit, including the idea of creating the three general purpose lanes and one toll lane.

"Absolutely, without a doubt," Trogdon said.

During the meeting Pat Cotham pulled out her "Fix It" sign to make the point that she, any many others, believe that the 50 year Cintra contract must, at least, be modified, if not scrapped all together.

"This area has grown 500% and they've had no new roads in thirty years," Cotham said.  "I mean those people who are listening in Charlotte, we have all kinds of new roads and they've got nothing and they've got the same growth. People up here have suffered, and they deserve something."

The three options that seemed to get the most approval from the group are to modify the contract in favor of the three general purpose and one toll lane, to take over the project and assume the debt, or compete and delete where the project is finished and the contract terminated.

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