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Gov. Pat McCrory: It’s too late to change I-77 contract

Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that some Mecklenburg County elected officials were “covering themselves” by opposing Interstate 77 toll lanes that they’d once supported.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that some Mecklenburg County elected officials were “covering themselves” by opposing Interstate 77 toll lanes that they’d once supported.

Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that some Mecklenburg County elected officials were “covering themselves” by opposing Interstate 77 toll lanes that they’d once supported.

He also defended his decision not to include money to widen the roadway in his $1.4 billion bond proposal.

And the Republican governor repeated his criticism that GOP lawmakers were over-reaching when they redrew City Council districts for the city of Greensboro.

“I’ve stated for the record if Washington did to Raleigh what Raleigh did to Greensboro there’d be a lot of people raising Cain in Raleigh,” the governor said.

McCrory made his comments on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Several listener phone calls involved the proposed I-77 toll lane project. Critics want the state to cancel a contract with I-77 Mobility Partners and find another way to widen the interstate.

McCrory said it’s too late to stop the project without substantial penalties, which have been estimated at around $100 million. He said if the local officials who approved the project seven years ago had asked him to stop it earlier, he might have been able to.

Now, he said, there simply isn’t enough money to cover the I-77 widening. He stressed that drivers will have a choice of whether to use the toll lanes or the adjacent free lanes.

The governor said officials shouldn’t be surprised at provisions in the toll contract such as the prohibition on the state being able to widen the interstate for 50 years.

“I think you’ve got a lot of politicians saying all of a sudden, ‘Hey, we didn’t read (the contract),’” McCrory said. “Well, who’s fault is that?”

Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte, a former Cornelius mayor, told the Observer Monday that circumstances had changed since local officials were first presented with the project.

“When we were given the option, it was one option or nothing,” he said. “It was tolls or no (road) money for 30 years.”

Now, he said, it’s become clear that the state has the borrowing capacity to fund road improvements.

“And we want the same option now that is available to everybody else,” Tarte said. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

Tarte has introduced legislation to stop the project.

In addition to criticizing GOP lawmakers for redrawing the Greensboro council districts, McCrory chided lawmakers for including a host of policy proposals – so-called special provisions – in their proposed budget.

In response to a caller, he also expressed skepticism about expanding Medicaid to 500,000 North Carolinians.

Even though the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost for three years, he said it might be hard for the state to find money to cover the remaining 10 percent. And he said the state hasn’t gotten clearance from the Obama administration to attach work or job training requirements to any expansion.

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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