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Rep. Sue Myrick's letter to Gov. Easley and Sect. Tippett published in Charlotte Observer

US. Representative Sue Myrick's (R-Charlotte) letter to North Carolina's Governor Mike Easley and NC Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett was published in the Friday, November 30th edition of the Charlotte Observer.

Why are we delaying the completion of 1-485 in Charlotte again?

I read in The Charlotte Observer how rising prices of materials are leading to the delay. Why didn't these same rising costs delay the loops in Fayetteville and Wilmington?

Why are we building loops in Fayetteville and Wilmington before we complete the one in Charlotte?

We were working on the one in Charlotte back when I was mayor. That was 20 years ago!

... Last I looked Charlotte was the largest city in the state. There seems to be no recognition of that fact in Raleigh. No recognition that we are at a standstill with traffic. No recognition that we have a traffic problem.

Nor is there any recognition of the fact that the state DOT utterly botched up the southern leg of our yet to be completed loop by only putting in two lanes where there should have been four. So not only is the loop not complete, what is complete is already backlogged. When we called on you to fix that, you delayed that, too. It's still not fixed!

I fear that the N.C. Department of Transportation and the General Assembly do not fully realize the repercussions of these continual delays and how crucial this project is to the wellbeing of our residents. Aside from the fact that commuters are already forced to crawl in rush hour traffic, I must also point out that this delay has security implications.

If for no other reason, please reconsider our loop so that Charlotte is prepared to deal with any mass evacuation that, Lord willing, will never be required, but for which we should prepare.

Charlotte is home to two of the largest banks in the world, hosted the first and only trial of Hezbollah in the United States and is surrounded by two nuclear power plants. These facts make Charlotte increasingly susceptible to a man-made or terrorist activity requiring a mass evacuation.

In the event of such an emergency, the completion of this portion of highway is crucial to making sure Charlotte residents are able to be evacuated in a safe and timely manner. Pushing back this project continues to put citizens' safety at risk. That is unacceptable.

The other issue here is fairness. The outerbelt delay is merely symbolic of a number of road projects left to wither on the vine of DOT projects while less deserving ones down East get the money. Garden parkway, Monroe bypass, Charlotte outerbelt, etc. Raleigh couldn't care less.

We need relief from the state NOW. It must be nice for areas around the state capital and toward the coast to keep having their projects fully supported, and we all know why that is. But allocating money through political clout and the good ole boy network is no way to run a state.

We pay our fair share of taxes on this side of the state. When are we going to get our fair share of the services for which we paid? Why do only a handful of people in Raleigh get to decide who drives on four-lane roads and who sits in traffic?

People call us the Great State of Mecklenburg, implying that somehow wanting to get fair representation and fair allocation out of Raleigh amounts to arrogance on our part.

Wrong.

True arrogance is allowing the state to be split into East vs. West, and the east getting all the spoils because the General Assembly, as a whole, does not have the backbone to stand up to a few of its leaders and tell them to cut it out.

Story Link: http://www.charlotte.com/409/story/384616.html

Commentary:

There are a few things that should be pointed out in Rep. Myrick's letter. First, the DOT did not botch the southern portion of I-485. When it was planned and built, the idea of the amount of growth in places like Pineville, Ballantyne, and parts of Union County (Waxhaw) was not expected. Remember, that the first parts of I-485 were built in the late 80s, and the area exploded in growth in the 1990s. So did the DOT botch the Southern Part of I-485? No.

Myrick also brings up the classic Charlotte vs. Raleigh and Western NC vs. Eastern NC rivalry. And it does exist, after living in both Charlotte and Raleigh, I can attest to that. But she doesn't talk about the rivalry within Mecklenburg County. In 2005, when the widening of I-485 in Ballantyne was pushed forward in the schedule - thus delaying the completion of the loop from I-77 near Huntersville to I-485 near Concord and University - there was a lot of bickering between political leaders in the towns of Northern Mecklenburg County vs. the City of Charlotte.

And she isn't alone about bickering about the Eastern North Carolina projects moving forwards. The larger cities including Greensboro and Raleigh over the past two to three years have voiced their displeasure over freeways being built in rural areas of Eastern NC. The core of that issue is the balance funding rule within DOT between the various DOT districts. Early this decade and in the late 90s, a lot of the projects in Charlotte and the large cities benefited from funding that was for projects (not ready to move forward) in the Eastern part of the state. Well now those projects are ready and the balance has shifted.

I am surprised that Myrick didn't mention in her letter that Tippett is from Fayetteville. As of now, there have been no public allegations that Tippett was instrumental in keeping the Fayetteville Loop (I-295) funding moving forward.

Myrick, who was mayor of Charlotte from 1987-1991, has been very outspoken on the construction/funding delays with I-485. We'll continue to hear from her while the Draft STIP is being finalized.

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