Widening I-77 – Our Adventures in Wonderland

Pic 2 Presidents article I-77You may recall Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  In this childhood classic, Alice chases a white rabbit and inadvertently falls into a hole and experiences a world where nothing is quite what it seems.  As a chamber executive, I strive to stay informed on policy matters.  However, when I attend meetings regarding land use and transportation, I often feel like Alice, in a world where nothing is quite what it should be.

Sometimes it seems road improvement projects simply defy common sense.  Placing concrete medians in front of businesses, like those on Holly Point Drive in Huntersville may indeed expedite vehicular travel.  However, these same medians severely limit access to and from businesses – and harm the businesses.  Keep in mind those businesses create sales tax dollars and property taxes that help to pay for road improvements. More importantly these businesses also provide jobs.  Unfortunately, the vitality of business does not seem to be a top priority for transportation planners.

Perhaps there in no greater transportation issue for the Lake Norman region than the widening of I-77. The current plan utilizes HOT (High Occupancy Toll) or managed lanes to accomplish this.  Critics suggest we need to build general purpose lanes instead and they point to Atlanta as an example where tolls have not been as successful as transportation leaders hoped.

I have attended meetings of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission (LNTC) and Widen 77 where both sides are presented.  As a member of the LNTC, we have studied HOT lanes for more than two years.  Many of us on the LNTC, believe with our limited transportation dollars, HOT lanes might be our only recourse to see additional lanes on I-77 for many years.  But I do agree with some of the points made by Widen I-77.   In “Alice in Wonderland”, there is the classic line, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.”   In regard to I-77 improvements, once done – it will not be undone. Unlike Alice’s Wonderland,  in our case, not just any road will do.

This month, the Chamber will host a Focus Friday on I-77 (Friday, Feb 22 at 8:30 am).  We will hear from Bill Thunberg of the LNTC and Kurt Nass with Widen I-77.  We also hope to line up a representative from the NC Department of Transportation.  It will not be the last word on the subject but perhaps it will continue to bring clarity to a controversial subject: HOT Lanes or General Purpose Lanes.

With substantially more road improvement projects than revenue and an Equity Formula that has proven to be quite inequitable – NC DOT may still have their own version of the “Elusive Cheshire Cat” from Carroll’s novel.

Elected officials, community members, and business leaders in our region have formed a strong partnership and are developing a great vision and plan for the future.  I am quite confident working together, we will create a transportation strategy for our future – whether that is the proposed P3 partnership (HOT Lanes) or General Purpose Lanes.

We are on a road to unbridled opportunities where our only limitations are those we impose upon ourselves.  We will succeed because we understand that the Lake Norman region is our community and this community means business.  Please join us this Friday (Feb 22) for Focus Friday from 8:30 – 10:00 am at the Chamber and learn for yourself which road will do.

Focus Friday is sponsored by DavidsonNews.net and CorneliusNews.net.