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Public-Private Partnerships Intertwined with Charlotte’s I-77 Toll Lanes Deal

Toll lanes may not be sexy political fare going into the dog days of summer, but they’ve become a heated issue in the Queen City. Some believe the future of North Carolina’s infrastructure hangs in the balance.

The deal to design and build high occupancy toll lanes or HOT Lanes on the I-77 corridor running north out of Charlotte for 26 miles has put a spotlight on several concerns including:

  • “The price tag on this project is expected to reach $655 million. NCDOT will contribute $88 million and Cintra will invest $234 million of its own money. Cintra will borrow another $315 million in government-backed loans.” (see Civitas Institute, June 25)
  • Cintra is a Spanish-owned company with a poor track record in toll road building and is facing bankruptcy and Moody’s downgrading in some states. (see Watchdog Wire, April 30, 2014)
  • Rep. Thom Tillis, Speaker of the North Carolina House and candidate for U.S. Senate, has supported HOT Lanes and the public-private partnerships or P3s which are being used to finance the building of toll roads.
  • P3s are being questioned by concerned citizens because of the potential harm to the public trust when taxpayer money is used to further crony capitalist politics. (see Watchdog Wire, March 7, 2014)

Conservative activists involved in researching and informing legislators and the public over the years about the consequences of the I-77 toll lanes  are the group Widen I-77 and Chuck Suter of the website Constitutional War.

Suter recently found that Thom Tillis was one of the sponsors of a 2008 NC law that set up the ability to form public-private partnerships in the state. (See Suter’s video posting on his website).

Suter also found a Carolina Business Review interview with Steve Crump from May 13, 2011 in which Tillis talks about his support of HOT Lanes. (See full interview at CBR YouTube channel, and toll road discussion at the 18:30 minute mark).

Now that it has come to light that the deal with Cintra may mean a $21 round trip daily commute for drivers going the full length of the toll lanes, many are asking how North Carolina could put so much at risk.

Ann Kane

Ann Kane is the Editor of Watchdog Wire - North Carolina. Contact her at NorthCarolina@WatchdogWire.com to learn how to get involved with citizen journalism in the Tarheel State. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnKane1111

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Categories: Infrastructure, Must Read, News, Policy, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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