Lake Norman & Mooresville

Towns question need for transportation commission

The mayors of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Mooresville are deliberating whether to restructure the Lake Norman Transportation Commission, which recently has lost much of its financial support.

All but one, Mooresville, decided in February to stop funding the commission.

Created in the late-2000s, the commission was meant to identify and advocate for transportation projects. It was intended to function for five years, but the towns voted last year to continue funding.

At that time, there was more competition over funds for transportation projects, says Lake Norman Transportation Commission Executive Director Bill Thunberg. N.C. Department of Transportation officials held more sway under the Equity Formula.

However, the longstanding funding method has been replaced by the Strategic Transportation Investments plan, which is based more on data.

Thunberg said the commission has become more important in helping prioritize projects rather than lobby for them. He also said projects are subject to more discretion at a regional level, involving more input from subcommittees.

The mayors met March 23 at Davidson town hall to discuss how to work together more effectively to improve the area’s transportation infrastructure. No decision was made at the meeting.

“We are fully committed to a regional transportation commission,” said Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla.

One with broader representation from decision-making bodies, he said, including the representatives of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, or CRTPO.

“Those are the people that are actually in the room making votes,” Aneralla said.

The Lake Norman Transportation Commission operates on an annual budget of $90,000, three-fourths of which is equally split among the municipalities. The remainder is based on the population of each one. Thundberg said his salary is $80,000. The rest is used for other expenses.

Although Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville voted to leave the commission, they remain part of it until the fiscal year beginning July 1.

After a half-hour discussion before opening a mid-February meeting, Huntersville commissioners voted 4-2 to leave the commission. Some said the commission has become redundant, particularly after the state adopted its new new funding method. In less than two weeks, Cornelius and Davidson followed suit, citing concerns over covering Huntersville’s share of the funding.

“We don’t feel it’s necessary,” Aneralla said in an interview, referring to the way the commission currently functions.

Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: