Lake Norman Chamber Member:
On May 16th, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce formally requested the Secretary of Transportation James Trogdon to strongly consider the recommendations which were made by an overwhelming consensus of the I-77 Policy Advisory Group. Those recommendations include:
* Allow I-77 Mobility Partners to complete construction
* Upon completion NCDOT buys out the contract
* Road improvement projects funded by 'Bonus' allocation dollars are not interrupted
* CRTPO is not involved in NCDOT decision making regarding alterations to the corridor
* One toll lane is converted to a general purpose lane from exit 18 to exit 28 in both directions
* The toll lane from exit 28 to exit 36 is converted to a general purpose lane in both directions
* The shoulder is hardened from exit 23 to exit 28 in both directions to be used during peak traffic times
To be clear, the I-77 Policy Advisory Group has no authority and the group did not vote on a single strategy. They instead voiced individual recommendations which have been referred to as 'Complete and Modify.'
Last fall, a delegation from Lake Norman which included Past Board Chairs John Hettwer and Mike Russell, Mecklenburg County Commissioners Pat Cotham and Jim Puckett, and myself met with Governor Roy Cooper, Secretary Trogdon, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor Ken Eudy, and NC House Rep. John Bradford. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Mercator Report and the possible alternatives suggested within that report.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett suggested an Advisory Group which could provide feedback on the report as well as offer insight as to the economic impacts the planned tolls and perhaps alternatives could have on the commerce, citizens, and communities of Lake Norman.
Since January of this year, the I-77 Policy Advisory Group has met seven times to carefully study this issue from nearly every possible perspective from concept to impact. The Lake Norman Chamber, which represents 950 business members in the Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius and the greater LKN region was honored to host six of those meetings.
John Hettwer summed it up best when he said, "This is an EXTRAordinary problem which requires an EXTRAorinary solution." I was also struck by a statement Commissioner Puckett made early on: "Instead of focusing on the costs and implications of canceling a contract, we should instead focus on the costs and consequences for the next fifty years if we do not."
What we at the Lake Norman Chamber recognize is that I-77 is a local road which pulsates through the heart of our community. Perhaps it should not be - but that is the reality. It ties our communities together. That critical artery is responsible for our commerce and quality of life.
The Chamber will continue to advocate for these recommendations and we will not settle or quit until we have addressed the congestion issue and brought new General Purpose Lanes to the lake region. To paraphrase Commissioner Puckett, the costs and consequences of failing are much too high and the generation who inherit our Lake Norman community tomorrow are counting on our actions today.
W.E. "Bill" Russell, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce
Pictures: Image of I-77 courtesy of David Boraks / WFAE. I-77 Advisory Group photo courtesy Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.