Will I-77 Take Toll on Cooper

Despite the notoriety of House Bill 2 during the 2016 reelection campaign of the incumbent Republican Governor, many political analysts point to the Interstate 77 toll road debacle as the reason Pat McCrory narrowly lost the race to now-Governor Roy Cooper.

The transportation project to the north of Charlotte was mired in controversy from the get-go, with cost overruns and management issues combining with the opposition of local residents and their perception of State Government overstepping local wills.

Now that Cooper is all moved in to the mansion on Blount Street, he is faced with balancing ongoing construction contracts and the still simmering sentiments of area locals.

“Governor Roy Cooper has formed a new advisory panel to make recommendations concerning the controversial I-77 toll lane project.

Work on the new toll lanes that many who live in northern Mecklenburg County oppose, continues every day but the newest appointee to the new advisory board, County Commissioner Pat Cotham, says the fight is not over.

“I am an optimist. We don’t give up just because they have started,” Cotham said.

Commissioner Jim Puckett who represents the north end of the county approached Governor Cooper about forming the advisory board and Cooper gave him the green light.

He says the group will be made up of residents, business people and local officials from cities along the I-77 corridor.”

Local participation and input is always a good ingredient in such decisions, but the buck ultimately stops with Cooper now and he will be forced to, either, stop a huge construction project in its tracks, resulting in contract disputes and the like, or reveal to Mecklenburg County voters that all of his political talk on the campaign trail was just that – talk.

The interested residents are clear in making the point that the wrong decision could mean the end of the road for Cooper in 2020.

“Asked if the group would have any real power to make changes now in the project, Puckett pointed to the 35,000 voters who live in the area and who will be watching.

“It’s a very serious voting block in North Mecklenburg and South Iredell. The Governor understands that,” Puckett said. “He has a re-election in 2020, so I do think we have the power of the ballot box.”

Former Governor Pat McCrory was a strong supporter of the toll project and many political watchers, including Commissioner Cotham, believe that cost him re-election.

“People who in the past voted for Pat McCrory instead switched their vote,” Cotham said.

Puckett says the group will meet twice a month starting next month behind closed doors so all can speak freely.

The group hopes to have a recommendation for the Governor to consider in three months.”

In the end, Cooper may fall victim to the same thorny issue that may well have done McCrory in at the ballot box. Rest assured, though, that the Democrat from Nash County will have plenty more to answer for in 2020 if he continues catering to the Progressive Left under the mistake impression he’s a governor of a blue state.

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