A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to appear on a special Town Hall version of WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. The event, held at CPCC – Merancas Campus, featured our Town Managers, Transportation Planners, NC DOT staff, and Mayors.
The Charlotte Talks program was a discussion on issues ranging from transportation, and education to affordable housing and the pressing need for a magistrate in North Mecklenburg.
NCDOT’s Scott Cole and Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe discussed the nearly half billion dollars in approved transportation projects planned for Huntersville, Davidson, and Cornelius and the improvements which will be made to our east- west arteries: Gilead Road, Sam Furr (NC Hwy 73), and Catawba Avenue.
Both pointed out with the improvements to other secondary roads, alternative modes of transportation such as Bus Rapid Transit, Rail, and Bike Paths, and the soon to be opened Managed Lanes – we could see congestion relief.
When Mike Collins asked me directly, what is the message I convey to businesses interested in locating to the Lake Norman region? I could have taken on the role of cheerleader and sugar coated the issue. I chose not to do that.
Instead, I responded that I-77 is the “Most Critical Issue” facing our lake communities and the aforementioned projects and alternative means of transportation will not dig us out of the hole we are making when it comes to our diminished quality of life and negative economic impact the Managed Lanes will ensure.
The Toll Lanes will not solve our congestion issue – they will guarantee it!
As a Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to advocate that the project be finished, and the state buy out the contract and convert one of the proposed Managed Lanes to a Free General-Purpose Lane. In the meantime, we must harden the shoulders of I-77 and provide additional General-Purpose (Free) lanes which could be used during peak driving times.
Some critics and toll road supporters have likened the efforts of our grass root opposition to tolls as foolhardy, wasted effort, or simply a belief in fairytales. Well, count me as one of the many who still believe in Fairytales!
Neil Gaiman, an English Author said, “Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
We do have a great many dragons facing us as we grow: our transportation challenges, overcrowded schools, affordable housing for our teachers, police, and firemen – all critical to our basic needs as a community.
However, these are all challenges which come from growth. I don’t think any of us would rather live in a region that is stagnant and dying such as a rural community that lacks the basic infrastructure to support business and industry. It would be devastating to live in a community like that where children leave when they graduate from school on a quest to find employment in a different community that is vibrant and growing.
Each of us have a responsibility to leave our community better than we found it. That is our charge and by Working Hard, Working Smart, and Working Together – we will slay those dragons. They can be beaten. Quite simply, it is the responsibility we owe to the generation who succeed us and we cannot settle for anything less.
Picture: Mike Collins and Doug Boraks of WFAE along with Chamber President Bill Russell on the Town Hall Edition of Charlotte Talks. Photo Courtesy of Ellen Stafford, LKNConnect.com