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The residents of North Mecklenburg have been strapped with a terrible deal: a 50-year contract that permits a foreign, unreliable company to charge drivers whatever makes them the most profit in order to drive in toll lanes. For years, our representatives have not acted fairly in dealing with our region’s transportation crisis on I-77. This lack of leadership has left us with an expensive, for-profit toll road, unmanageable congestion, a decades-long wait for improvements and dangerous construction zones that seem to last forever. None of our representatives stood up for our region.
I oppose these toll roads and always have. As a candidate in 2014, I was one of the first and only candidates to speak out against the tolls. It was clear to me as an attorney that the CINTRA contract was a one-sided, bad deal. I said so publicly and included opposition to the proposed toll contract in my top issues. This remains a top issue for drivers, for voters and for me.
On the other hand, my opponent was for the toll roads before he was against them. He has stalled for years and done nothing to stop the tolls. Despite a sustained outburst of voter anger, he has provided only political posturing and enabled the toll project to proceed unhindered. As late as June of 2015, he said that he would not work to stop the tolls because he believed they were overwhelmingly popular. Even worse, this year, he voted to protect the toll contract and tie the Governor’s hands to fix this mess by giving the General Assembly the ultimate say on whether to cancel or amend the contract.
In a nutshell, my opponent has proven that we cannot trust him on this critical issue.
Our best chance to get a better deal on I-77 now rests with Governor Cooper. He opposed the toll contract and called for it to be cancelled before construction began in 2016. Yet McCrory pushed ahead and allowed construction to begin. Now as Governor, Cooper established the I-77 Advisory Group and, with the group’s suggestions in mind, will make a decision about what can be done soon. Yet, my opponent and his party have aggressively stripped the Governor of many of his powers, including the power to cancel or amend the I-77 toll contract.
If elected, I will work with Governor Cooper to get the residents of North Mecklenburg a better deal on I-77. I’m running to make sure we get a fair share of our tax dollars for good roads in our district. We must have transportation solutions that benefit all of our residents, not just those who can pay exorbitant tolls.
This issue affects all parts of our district and the state. As long as this Republican supermajority is in place, there’s nothing to stop the General Assembly from adding similar toll roads across all of Mecklenburg County and other parts of the state. Toll roads are unpopular for many valid reasons -- they are annoying, confusing, unfair as a double tax and bad for nearby towns and businesses. As I heard the NC Turnpike Authority Director say at a recent meeting about the new toll lane project in South Charlotte, “I’ve never been anywhere where toll lanes are popular.” Let’s quit electing people who like toll lanes.