Over the past several months you've probably heard about plans to widen I-77 using toll lanes. Like you, I was thrilled with the idea that any lane — even a toll lane — would help reduce the awful traffic tie-ups we see on I-77 every weekday.
But the more I look into this, the more I'm convinced toll lanes are a bad idea.
First, toll lanes won't solve I-77's traffic problems. Drivers will pay to use the toll lane only when the free lanes are congested. No congestion, no toll revenue. Right now, the plan is to have the toll lanes operated on a for-profit basis by a private company. The only way any private company will agree to participate is if they can be certain the free lanes stay congested. So instead of relieving congestion, toll lanes will ensure it.
Second, not only will toll lanes ensure congestion, they'll make it worse. Why? Because the tolls will be set by a practice called "dynamic pricing." Under this scenario, as traffic gets worse the toll goes up. The tolling company will want congestion to be as heavy as possible in the free lanes so they can charge more to drive in the toll lanes.
Third, these toll lanes could be under contract for as long as 50 years. During that time we'll have little or no say as to what happens with any future I-77 improvements. Remember, the private company wants the free lanes congested. We can expect them to oppose any further attempts to widen I-77 with anything but more toll lanes.
There hasn't been a single improvement in north-south roads through Lake Norman since I-77 was built nearly 40 years ago. In the meantime, every other stretch of interstate in Mecklenburg County has been widened at least once. I-77 through Lake Norman is now the only stretch of interstate in Mecklenburg that remains four lanes.
— Kurt Naas, Cornelius
Chamber supports Huntersville bonds
The writer is a resident of Huntersville and president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.
Appearing on the ballot for Huntersville voters will be three significant bonds that will play an important role in the future economic development and quality of life of the town — transportation improvements $17.85 million, parks and recreation $5 million, and public facilities $7.15 million.
At the Monday, Sept. 24 Chamber board meeting, the board discussed at length the bonds and their impact on business growth. A strong concern posed was whether these bonds cause a future tax increase. It was a valid question, particularly given the Chamber's strong stand regarding the Mecklenburg County tax revaluation. At the end of the discussion, the board voted 7-6 to support the bonds.
Will the proposed bonds be the catalyst for a tax increase in Huntersville? That's possible but not a certainty. What is certain is these projects are all needed to meet the current and future growth of the town and inevitably taxes would be raised in the future to pay for the projects. At a recent Chamber Focus Friday on the subject, Huntersville Town Commissioner Charles Jeter, speaking on behalf of the bonds, said, "Looking over the list of potential projects and infrastructure needs, all of these are vital for the future of the town and the bonds are the least expensive way to pay for them."
The Chamber's 2012 legislative agenda states that road improvements are critical for the overall economic health not only of Huntersville but for the entire Lake Norman region. Quite simply, improvements to N.C. Highway 115 in Huntersville impact Cornelius and Davidson. Additional fire stations to protect residential homes and businesses are critical to a community that has seen an 87 percent growth over the last decade alone.
While some could argue Huntersville does not need to spend $5 million on recreational facilities, the improvements at the HFFA, recreation center and farmers market would very likely result in increased travel and tourism revenue. In fiscal year 2012, Visit Lake Norman in its annual report stated that $23 million was generated in Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville through travel and tourism. That is $52.17 for every $1 invested in Visit Lake Norman.
There is no doubt that our businesses benefit greatly from the hospitality industry and lake lifestyle of the region.
At the request of Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain, the Chamber board has voted to support the bonds and encourages Huntersville voters to educate themselves on the issue.
— Bill Russell, Huntersville
Commissioners show lack of response
The writer is a former Huntersville town commissioner and current property owner in Huntersville.
I am reluctantly writing as a concerned Huntersville taxpayer on whether the local elected officials in Huntersville truly care about their constituents and taxpayers, or is it simply cheap lip-service during the campaign?
On Sept. 14, 2012, I wrote to each Huntersville Town Board member asking them to provide or direct me to the details regarding the proposed transportation bond that is before the voters in Huntersville. Specifically, I was looking for project details and associated costs.
As expected, I received immediate or acceptably timely responses from commissioners McAulay, Jeter, Bales and Phillips. Each provided either the details I asked for, further views on the list and proposed projects, or at least the courtesy that they would get back to me with further information as requested. I applaud each of them for their diligence and genuine care for the taxpayers who question the projects by which their taxes will be used to fund, each demonstrating their commitment to true representation.
Sadly and most disappointingly, Commissioners Julian and Guignard have yet to reply or even respond to my initial e-mail. In fairness, having been elected myself, I understand the challenges and time commitments, so I re-sent my e-mail request on Sept. 21, 2012. Regretfully I have received absolutely no response or assistance or feedback from either commissioner despite my repeated attempt.
How can it be that you run for political office purporting to represent the taxpayers, but yet cannot find the time to assist the same taxpayer? How can you intentionally ignore taxpayers when given two opportunities to simply respond? In today's skeptical environment toward politicians, both commissioners Julian and Guignard embody the adage that "what is spoken in elections with sincere hearts is the polar opposite of some politicians when they get elected." I am ashamed and disappointed in these two commissioners, and more so, they should be ashamed too!
— Ken Lucas, San Antonio, Tezas