Lake Norman-area leaders are pushing back against regional planners who have questioned a proposal to allow drivers to use shoulders along Interstate 77 from Huntersville to Mooresville as travel lanes during heavy traffic periods when toll lanes through the area become operational.
“This is infuriating!” N.C. Sen. Natasha Marcus of Davidson commented on the Herald Citizen’s Facebook page in response to a story posted Friday. “CRTPO has always been part of the problem.”
CRTPO, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, prioritizes road projects in Mecklenburg, Iredell and Union counties.
After discussions among staff members and CRTPO’s Technical Coordinating Committee, Assistant Planning Director Robert Cook questioned the need and practicality of employing “peak period shoulder lanes” in an April 11 memo to the organization’s members, who will discuss the proposal at a meeting Wednesday in Charlotte.
“Have already contacted (the) governor's office and set them on it,” former Mecklenburg County commissioner Jim Puckett of Huntersville posted on the Herald Citizen’s Facebook page. “Their comment (was), ‘That's outrageous.’”
Puckett, a Republican, suggested that Democrats contact Democratic Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles to “let her know you certainly expect Charlotte to vote NO to any attempt to stop any projects that get us closer to more access and canceling this debacle. Charlotte, and the three northern towns (Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson) can kill anything CRTPO staff tries to change.”
Municipalities have voting CRTPO representatives, but votes are weighted based on population, which gives Charlotte significant influence.
Marcus, a Democrat, has introduced legislation calling for the creation of a study committee to consider changes in how voting power is distributed among members of metropolitan planning organizations like CRTPO.
The pushback on shoulder lanes “underscores the need for my Bill to change the makeup of MPOs to be more fair to suburban towns,” Marcus posted on the Herald Citizen’s Facebook page.
The I-77 Local Advisory Board, a panel of officials from the Lake Norman area assembled by the N.C. Department of Transportation to address concerns about the I-77 Express Lanes project, recommended the use of shoulder lanes in February after being advised on the concept by an NCDOT consultant.
CRTPO’s Cook directed some pointed questions in response to the proposal.
“What is the problem on I-77 that is being addressed by the implementation of peak hour shoulder use?” he asked in the memo to CRTPO members. “Is there an identified/forecasted traffic/operational deficiency that this project will address? Does approval of this project give the perception that we believe there are problems with the express lanes project before it even opens?”
Most I-77 Local Advisory Board members believe the express lanes themselves are the problem, but they view the opening of exit-to-exit shoulders to traffic as a way to accommodate local drivers with few north-south options other than I-77.
CRTPO will discuss the potential use of the shoulder lanes April 17. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in Room 267 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St. in Charlotte.