Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Thoughts from a cluttered desk – What direction are we headed?

What direction are we headed?

AliceIn Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, there is an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
“–so long as I get somewhere” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

I’m sure many of us feel like Alice.  Stuck in the congestion of I-77, if we wait long enough, we’ll get to our destination. The promise of express lanes to expedite our travel seemed like a solution months ago given the option of HOT lanes or no widening of I-77 at all. The leaders of the chamber of commerce felt the former option was the only option.

There are times looking back on this issue, I feel like our elected leaders…and yes…the business leaders too, including me, struggled with the right road to our funding. How do you get “there” when you don’t know where “there” is?

As I write this, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has joined other business and citizen voices in calling for the cancellation of the contract between NCDOT and I-77 Mobility Partners. It is an action on our part brought about by the groundswell of residents, small business owners and chamber of commerce members who saw the direction we were headed and said that is not the direction we need to go.

The Lake Norman area is unique. The Interstate which runs through the heart of our lake communities, yet is the common bond uniting our region, makes us different than other cities and towns in North Carolina.  I-77 is a local road.  It is how we get from one community to the next.  We may live in Huntersville, work in Cornelius, go to church in Davidson, and shop in Mooresville – but for many of us, we use I-77 to get there.I77 express lanes

Tolling and Public – Private Partnerships may well be the means to fund road improvement projects in other areas of the state.  That said, it’s not the best option for Lake Norman.

It doesn’t take a Cheshire Cat to figure out that not any old road will do. The path we were headed down was the wrong road. It was bad for the citizens living here.  It was bad for business. More importantly, it was bad for the legacy we leave to our children –  those who will inherit the results of our decisions today.

I sincerely hope we change the direction of this dialogue, and more importantly take a different direction in our actions. I’m not sure if we will be successful or not.  I simply know now, and I think I’ve always known, we have to try. We have a responsibility to the next generation of Lake Norman citizens and we dare not fail in our task.

W.E.  “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

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July 6, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

 

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment