Local leaders say I-77 meetings becoming a 'waste of time'

The reality of paying a toll to travel on I-77 is starting to set in for people who still want the contract cancelled or changed.

This Wednesday, transportation officials met with local leaders about drivers’ concerns. Many of them said the meeting was a waste of time.

"This was not much different from the last meeting we had and from the first meeting we had," said Iredell County Commissioner Jeff McNeely.

That was the frustration during a meeting of local leaders and NCDOT Wednesday.

"It's hard for me to listen to what you're saying and believe in it," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

The advisory group met with NCDOT eight times last year. The majority voted to cancel the contract with Cintra and have the state take over the tolls.

"The word that I've been looking for is cancel. That is what this group emphatically said," said Cornelius Commissioner Kurt Naas.

Many members also asked for additional general purpose lanes.

"They want to hear from us, but I think that's as far as it gets," said McNeely.

Coming into the meeting, members said they expected answers to questions they asked back in August.

"You said give us six months we'll come back with answers. We come back today, I still see lots of questions. Let's talk political now. The governor has been there for two years. We're at the point now that we're running out of time. The governor and his team are running out of time to provide solutions to this area," said John Hettwer with the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Solutions that one member says go beyond asphalt.

"This continues to be focused on nothing but a road project. We have got to start dealing with this from a commerce point of view. That's why I’ve asked the Secretary of Commerce to join our next meeting," said I-77 Advisory Group member Jim Puckett.

The next meeting is expected to be scheduled for August. The entire toll project is expected to open by October.