Charlotte - At its regular meeting Monday night, the Charlotte City Council is scheduled to get a briefing from city staff and discuss the previously approved strategy to use optional toll lanes as part of a regional transportation vision. Afterward, the city council is scheduled to vote to direct its voting member of the Charlotte Regional Planning Organization (CRTPO) to either vote to reaffirm the current regional strategy to add optional toll lanes to multiple projects in the region, or reverse that previous decision.
At the request of the Governor, CRTPO (made of local elected officials from each municipality) is expected to vote Wednesday, Jan. 20, on the regional use of optional toll lanes to multiple projects in the region, or set in motion the steps to create a new regional plan that includes new, viable options. Either choice would be about the entire regional strategy, not one specific project or contract.
"We fully respect all local decisions in this process and our department will work closely with local elected officials to deliver their final, approved regional transportation plan whether it includes optional toll lanes or not," said NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson.
Secretary Tennyson and NCDOT staff will attend Monday's meeting.
As part of the transparent process, NCDOT believes strongly that it is important to share all facts and information about ramifications with local elected officials and the public before the final votes.
What would happen if the local elected officials in the planning organization (CRTPO) vote to no longer support their optional toll lane strategy for the region?
- Since the strategy is the basis for four optional toll lane projects in the region, work would be suspended on the toll lane projects until a new plan and project list could be determined.
- The local elected officials that make up CRTPO will have to create and submit for federal approval a new ten-year transportation plan, significantly modifying the one they created and approved in August of 2015.
- Any new projects included in a new ten-year plan, including replacing funded and approved optional toll lane projects with other widening projects, must be submitted for scoring to compete against all other statewide, regional and division level transportation projects for available funding as required by North Carolina state law.
- $145 million in bonus allocation funds earned by building the I-77 project are being invested on transportation projects in Mecklenburg and Iredell Counties, because under state law any region which requests toll lanes receives funding that recognizes the local investment in the project. If the project is not built, the region is no longer eligible for the bonus allocation funds.
- The state is at risk for paying a cost for cancellation. An independent review, through the State Auditors Office, at the request of legislative members, gave estimates of $300 million and $82 million to cancel. These are not NCDOT estimates, and ultimately the final cost will be resolved through litigation. That final cost could ultimately be higher or lower than the $300 million estimate.
- The Governor does not have the authority to allocate the estimated total funds required to pay cancellation costs related to the project and will ask the General Assembly to determine which taxpayer funding source it will come from.
Why should the state or local region have to pay to cancel the contract?
In order to deliver the project submitted and approved by the local officials, the state signed a legally binding contract, as is the case with all contracts, protections are included for both parties. This contract protects taxpayers from financial liability if the project fails or if the company defaults.
If the contract were canceled in this case, it would be because the local elected officials on the transportation planning organization (CRTPO) reverse their previous decisions to implement optional toll lanes, and change their strategy. This would completely unprecedented and would be defined as a cancellation for convenience under the contract – requiring the payment of cancellation costs.