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Cornelius toll vote puts drivers in a jam

Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

This cuckoo idea of imposing tolls on Lake Norman commuters got a boost this week when Cornelius Mayor Lynette Rinker broke a 2-2 tie among the city’s commissioners on the issue and voted yes.

With that, the city cast an influential endorsement for the $550 million scheme to gouge motorists for half a century to get an express pass on a highway they already pay for with their fuel taxes.

Road planners will decide this summer whether to go through with the plot. Here are their options:

• Let a contractor build additional lanes from uptown to Mooresville that the motoring public can, for 50 years, use for a special fee. That way, commuters can breeze merrily past the choke points on Interstate 77 that the state absolutely, positively, unconditionally cannot afford to fix.

• Or, maybe the state can find the money elsewhere.

Option 2 is absolutely, positively, unconditionally unappetizing because if you can’t fleece all those rich Lake Norman commuters, you probably can’t fleece anybody, anywhere.

And that means the grand, progressive strategy of Jersey Financing, of building North Carolina roads by making people pay twice – first with one of the highest fuel taxes in the nation and second through odious tolling – just won’t fly.

But finding money elsewhere is a toughie. If you look at the state’s long-range road plan, you see worthy projects everywhere.

Take, for example, the Bonner Bridge.

That’s the creaky old span about to fall into Oregon Inlet. It’s a gateway to N.C. 12, that asphalt ribbon along the Outer Banks that regularly gets clawed into pebbles by a grumpy sea.

Something in the neighborhood of $500 million is needed out there to fix bridge and byway so tourists may rent mansions amid the dunes.

Is there any chance of, say, tolling tourists to pay for the bridge and the vanishing highway?

No, no, no, no, no, absolutely, positively, unconditionally, no.

See, Bonner Bridge only carries about 6,000 cars a day, maybe double that during the summer.

I-77 through Lake Norman carries about 90,000 a day.

Scalping tourists is so old-fashioned. Progressive leaders know that you must gouge where the gouging is good.

Exactly how it serves progressive Cornelius leaders to serve up their residents as the gougees is a question that may linger for a long time.

Like for the next 50 years.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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