Nine lawmakers request audit of I-77 toll road project

The N.C. Dept. of Transportation held information sessions around Charlotte ahead of the I-77 toll lane construction project. May 22, 2014 at North Mecklenburg High School. Source: NCDOT

RALEIGH — N.C. State Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) says the I-77 project to add toll lanes outside of Charlotte is a “catastrophic mess.” Traffic accidents have increased 55 percent since the construction started two years ago, with nearly 1,800 crashes reported.

The controversial project is one of the issues that plagued former Gov. Pat McCrory during his 2016 re-election campaign, and Tarte, with eight other members of the General Assembly, say an independent review is long overdue. In a February letter to State Auditor Beth Woods, the lawmakers asked her office to audit and investigate the RFP and contract for the I-77 project between the state and Cintra/I-77 Mobility Partners.

“The contract with Cintra needs to be cancelled or the remote possibility of renegotiated, but they cannot be left to operate as currently planned,” Tarte wrote in a Facebook post last week. “The construction zone as managed is a catastrophic mess; I stand by that characterization.”

Tarte is also calling for better signage and safer transition lanes around the road construction.

“It is generally acknowledged that this contract has many issues and would not be a template for future state contracts,” said Tarte in a release accompanying the legislators’ letter to Wood. “It is time to ensure all the rules, procedures, protocols and guidelines associated with the RFP and contract were followed in accordance with state and federal laws. If any material issues are identified during this audit we can determine the appropriate action(s) to remedy such.”

Sens. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) and John Alexander (R-Wake) signed onto the letter along with Reps. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) and Chaz Beasley (D-Mecklenburg), and Sens. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), David Curtis (R-Lincoln), Jim Davis (R-Franklin) and Tom McInnis (R-Richmond).