June marks the third year I have been fighting and educating anyone who will listen about the terrible design, the moral failure, the damage to future economic development and the unmitigated stupidity of the I-77 toll project.
In the process I and others have changed the minds of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, the town boards of Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville and Mooresville as well as the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. Eighty-one N.C. legislators of both parties were also convinced this was a flawed plan and needed to be canceled. Each saw and understood the basic failures. Now Sen. Phil Berger and his Senate colleagues are in position to either join with those who have been willing to listen and act, or blindly ignore the voices of tens of thousands and snub the will of the people.
As a last act of education, I will remind the N.C. Senate of a few facts. First, every single project like the I-77 one has ultimately ended in default with the state picking up the very expensive pieces or bought out due to failure to mitigate congestion. When this project goes belly up, or when the state is forced to purchase the contract back to build the needed capacity, North Carolina will have to pony up hundreds of millions more than currently required, thus putting all future road projects across the state in jeopardy. If you ignore this now you and your constituents will pay dearly in the future. It is their taxes you are putting at risk.
On the off chance this project does what no other has and survives the entire 50-year run, N.C. taxpayers will have sent $3.5-$4 billion in toll revenue to Spain. That’s up to $4,000,000,000.00 leaving the state of North Carolina’s economy and going to line the pockets of Spanish stockholders.
While politicians squabble over giving movie companies a few million, while you debate tax incentives of a few hundreds of thousands on a “hope and change” scheme to lure a few hundred jobs to the state, you are knowingly sending $4 billion overseas. This is not a fiscally sound strategy.
Cancel for cause, sue the company for the misrepresentations it has made, ask Gov. McCrory to sign into law and Attorney General Roy Cooper to defend in court. Huge bipartisan action, huge savings for taxpayers.
Jim Puckett is a Mecklenburg County commissioner.