After three weeks of cajoling the NCDOT with a FOIA request, and a couple calls to the NC Attorney Generals office, I finally got a response about who actually bid on the toll lane contract. I received a cut and paste of a carefully worded statement. Here it is (emphasis added):
Four potential bidders were shortlisted and participated in more than 70 intensive, one-on-one meetings with NCDOT. These meetings helped us produce several drafts of the final contract documents. These documents lay out the instructions for bidding, the design, construction, and maintenance performance requirements and the overarching agreement. They reflect the minimum contract requirements and the public protections that we require (e.g. bonding, insurance, termination rights, revenue sharing, etc.)In addition, we stated that the maximum contribution from traditional state funding would be capped at $170 million.Each of the four bidders conducted exhaustive analyses to determine if they could meet these contract requirements while ensuring that the long term contract would generate enough revenue to offset their initial investment.Bidders requested varying amounts of additional state and federal funding beyond the $170 Million, and/or requested that a multitude of the contract requirements be relaxed. We determined that the $170 million public contribution was reasonable and the public protections in place in the contract were prudent. The cap would not be increased.Bids were due on March 31, 2014 and one bidder submitted a compliant technical proposal and financial proposal. The proposals were subjected to roughly 200 pass/fail criteria and further evaluation of the relative merits of their technical proposal.The apparent best value proposer was announced on April 11, 2014 as Cintra Infraestructures. Cintra proposed a total project investment of $655 million, of which only $88 million is the NCDOT contribution (less than the projected $170 million contribution).
These are not your parents tolls of 25 cents into the basket. The cost for these tolls from Mooresville to Charlotte could cost $5.00, $6.50 and up to $16.00 or more each way. Drivers are given the choice to sit in even more congestion in the two lanes you have today or pay the high price to use the tolls. These lanes are nick-named “Lexus Lanes”. Do you want to pay $10 a day for your work commute or to get your kids to school and activities — on top of gas and other fees (including NC’s highest gas tax in the Southeast)?
“I heard it was a done deal. Is that true?”
Unfortunately, that is what some of the pro-toll officials are saying, but it is absolutely not a done deal for a number of reasons. First, the contract has not been signed. Second, there are still steps that have yet to been taken that will provide both the state and local officials to change the course. Third, towns across America have stopped similar projects pushed by their DOT organizations. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
I was told that there is no funding and it’s either tolls or nothing for 20 years?
Again, that is more spin and scare tactics used by the tolling corporations and their political partners. New funding criteria set forth by the state’s new transportation plan and the new ranking criteria by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization will place I-77 toward the top of the list for public funds for adding general purpose lanes to I-77. As you look around the state you see plenty of other highway projects. Clearly there is funding for roads and with wise prioritization and leaders who will put the citizens first instead of corporate special interests, we can get the general purpose lanes we need.
Widen I-77 is a citizen’s group dedicated to widening Interstate 77 through the Lake Norman area with general purpose lanes. Right now our state and local governments are proposing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.
These HOT lanes will be operated for profit by a private company with contract term of 50 years. HOT Lanes will not solve our congestion problems and end up costing far more than general purpose lanes.
According to documents and memos obtained by wideni77:
- HOT lanes will have “minimal impact to travel speeds in the existing general purpose lanes”
- HOT lanes could cost as much as six times a comparable general purpose lane when operating costs, profit and required improvements are factored in
- HOT lanes could restrict our ability to improve North-South connectivity on I-77 for the next 50 years
- There is no limit on how high tolls can be set
I-77 was built in the 1970′s. Since then, the region’s population has grown tenfold, yet there has not been a single improvement in north-south connectivity in nearly 40 years. I77 is now the only stretch of interstate in Mecklenburg County that remains four lanes, and if the HOT lane plan succeeds, will be the first privately-operated toll lane in North Carolina.
We are asking our local elected leaders to convene a task force to develop alternative solutions. In the meantime, we are also asking the NCDOT to postpone awarding the private company contract until all of the proposed solutions have been thoroughly vetted.
HOT lanes are the WRONG WAY to widen I-77 through Lake Norman.
Email us at email@example.com with questions or feel free to comment below.
1) “Comments on Environmental Documents for TIP Projects I-3311 C and I-4750 HOT”, MUMPO memo dated October 4, 2012
2)“I-77 HOT Lane Project Discussion with Cornelius Town Board”, email from Bill Coxe to Andrew Grant, October 15, 2012
3) “I-77 Feasibility Study HOV-HOT Lanes Conversion”, Parsons- Brinkerhoff, May 6, 2010
4) I- 3311E; “I-77 Local Officials Meeting”, August 1, 2012
5) US Census Bureau data, 1980
6) US Census Bureau data, 2010