Local lawmakers introduce new bill to try and give drivers relief on I-77

I-77 traffic
I-77 traffic
Updated: Mar. 25, 2019 at 3:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Monday, as electronic signs for the I-77 toll lanes were being tested, several local lawmakers announced new proposed legislation they hope will offer some relief to drivers.

State Senators Natasha Marcus and Vickie Sawyer along with Representatives Chaz Beasley and Christy Clark gathered in Cornelius to lay out their strategy for possibly changing or cancelling the project. They say the bills will make it easier for Governor Cooper to negotiate with the contractor.

“We know our lane and our role. Our role is to enable those that can get us a better deal have the authority to do that,” said Senator Marcus. “The governor would like to move forward with those negotiations.”

They say the companion bills in the House and Senate would address two major roadblocks when it comes to making any changes to the contract.

“First, the General Assembly says the governor has to give them 60 days notice of any change or modification or cancellation of this contract,” said Senator Marcus. “Second, any money required to secure such cancellation or modification come only from an express appropriation by the general assembly.”

“The problem with that is, if there a pocket of money out there that could create some sort of solution, now you have to have language from the General Assembly that specifically mentions the I-77 toll project,” said Representative Chaz Beasley.

In a statement sent to the Charlotte Observer, Transportation Department spokeswoman Carly Olexik said, “We will follow his bill as it moves through the process. In the meantime, we will remain focused on improving this contract to respond to the needs of the people of north Mecklenburg County.”

The bills will need Republican support.

“As a Republican I stand with my party, but I am also an Iredell County resident and I stand with my family, and my neighbors and my business,” said Representative Sawyer. “I do believe that there are Republicans in the Senate that agree with me.”

There have been attempts to change and modify the contact in the past. Most of failed to garner any real movement.

Cornelius Town Commissioner, Kurt Naas, has been a critic of the I-77 toll project for years. When WBTV asked him Monday if he believes these efforts will be different that the past, he was not optimistic.

“No,” Naas said. “Unless we change the leadership in the State Senate. That is where the roadblock is.”

Huntersville Town Commissioner Mark Gibbons has also been fighting against the project for years.

“I don’t know what the leadership thinks if they delay this and don’t help. If it is just for political points, it is ridiculous,” said Gibbons.

The project was supposed to be finished last year but has been delayed.

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