Charlotte - NCDOT would like to correct the record on several items related the Mecklenburg/ Iredell region's optional toll lanes strategy, following a series inaccurate articles published in one newspaper over the last several days.
What is the Charlotte City Council scheduled to discuss and vote on Monday January 11th? What is the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) scheduled to vote on Wednesday January 20th?
The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to vote Monday to direct its voting member of the regional transportation planning body to vote to either reaffirm the current regional strategy to add optional toll lanes to multiple projects in the region, or reverse that previous decision.
On January 20th the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO, made up of elected officials from each local government) is scheduled to vote to either reaffirm the current regional strategy to add 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 body may consider other issues as stipulated in their rules, but the agenda items are as described above.
Neither agenda item is about one specific project or contract, both are votes to reaffirm or reverse the long-term regional transportation strategy created by local elected officials.
The current regional strategy to include additional, optional toll lanes next to existing general-purpose lanes, was developed, approved and requested by local elected officials through a seven-year long study and public review process by the Planning Organization. The same group voted on August 19, 2015 to approve a ten-year transportation plan for the region that includes optional toll lane projects. If the local officials no longer support their previously approved strategy and want to change direction that is a decision that must be made by that local body.
NCDOT respects the local decision on this strategy. NCDOT will work closely with the local elected officials to implement their final strategy and plan with or without optional toll lanes.
As part of the transparent process NCDOT believes it is important for all elected officials, member of the media and the public to understand all of the information, including ramifications before the 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 . 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, projections 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.