NCDOT Secretary refuses questions after trip to Texas

WBTV investigates controversial I-77 toll lane project
Published: Mar. 7, 2016 at 10:36 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2016 at 3:06 AM EST
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(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)

AUSTIN, TX (WBTV) - North Carolina Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson had little to say about his trip to Austin Monday following his meeting with leaders at the Texas Department of Transportation.

Tennyson made the trip at the request of Governor Pat McCrory after a Texas subsidiary of the company contracted to build the I-77 toll lanes, Cintra, declared bankruptcy last week.

The now-bankrupt company was the subject of an On Your Side Investigation in February that looked at Cintra's history of toll road troubles in the United States.

Analysts had predicted the Cintra subsidiary that operated SH-130 in Texas would declare bankruptcy for years.

While Tennyson gave no details on what he experienced on his trip Monday, Texas leaders have spent the last two years building a new case against tolls.

At the state capitol in Austin, ten years of tolling across the Lone Star State has prompted backlash from politicians.

"Toll roads have kind of been hobbled in Texas, at least future toll roads, explained reporter Aman Batheja of the non-profit journalism group Texas Tribune. "The governor campaigned on not having any more toll roads."

Tolling in Texas began to take off under a plan from former Governor Rick Perry to build transportation corridors across the state. Cintra was to be a key private partner in making the plan a reality.

But a decade later, Texas lawmakers have scrapped Perry's plan and have even gone so far as to strip any reference to the plan from the law.

"Over the past decade there's been an anti-toll movement that's grown in Texas and Cintra is, basically, the boogeyman," Batheja said.

Executives at Cintra's US headquarters have been tight lipped in the wake of SH-130's bankruptcy.

On Your Side Investigates visited the company's headquarters in Austin while in town on Monday but was told nobody was available to speak with us.

Secretary Tennyson was equally tight-lipped Monday, saying only his trip was productive and details would be forthcoming.

When On Your Side Investigates tried to ask Tennyson about whether he was aware Cintra had sold a stake in its subsidiary building the I-77 toll lanes project to a British firm, Tennyson cut the reporter off and headed for his car.

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