Texas tollway bankruptcy spurs reassessment of I-77 expansion near Charlotte
Posted March 3
Raleigh, N.C. — The bankruptcy of a Texas tollway project has given Gov. Pat McCrory an opening to "reassess," and possibly cancel, a similar contract for Interstate 77 near Charlotte.
Along with other Texas media, the Austin American Statesman and Dallas Morning News reported late Wednesday that the private company formed to build the SH 130 highway near Austin had filed for bankruptcy.
That company is 65 percent owned by Spanish toll road builder Cintra, the same company with whom the state of North Carolina has contracted to build the I-77 toll lanes in the Charlotte area.
In a news release, North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said North Carolina officials learned of the Texas company's bankruptcy late Wednesday night.
"The governor has directed us to immediately review every available option – both legal and financial – to reassess the I-77 Mobility Partner’s business model and current contract," Tennyson said. "Therefore, I will be going to Austin on Monday to meet with Texas DOT representatives to assess the situation. It is important to note that the current contract protects taxpayers from financial losses."
The I-77 project has been controversial. While it still has the backing of the Charlotte City Council, the $650 million toll lane plan faces opposition from the Mecklenburg County Commissioners and other local officials, who say the state should find a way to expand the highway without tolling.
The controversy could have political ramifications for many candidates, including McCrory, who is running for re-election.
"In light of this company's bankruptcy, even Governor McCrory has to admit now that he cut a bad deal for North Carolina," Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday morning.
Cooper, a Democrat, could face McCrory in the fall general election.
"He should stop stalling and cancel this contract that never should have been signed to begin with," Cooper said. "Unfortunately, this boondoggle will leave people who deserve better waiting in traffic."