Those of us engaged in the battle against High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstate 77 have learned a lot about how our roads are funded and why north Mecklenburg and south Iredell are faced with such a terrible “non-solution” as the I-77 HOT lanes. We have found that the biggest barrier to building an efficient roadway corridor through the Lake Norman area is an unbalanced system of representation in Raleigh.

Our State House has 120 members and the Senate has 50. The majority of these elected leaders represent small and rural communities. The majority of the State’s revenue comes from the urban areas which have fewer legislators than the rural areas. The result is that the rural legislators have a powerful say in how the urban legislators will spend their money.

That is why you will see some very nice roads with very few cars in rural parts of North Carolina.  To further illustrate the funding disparity, commuters in Lake Norman contribute approximately $12 million in state and federal gas taxes per year while commuters in rural areas contribute far less to the road fund for a comparable drive on comparable roads. These numbers illustrate that commuters on I-77 already offer a substantial subsidy to those rural drivers and many others. The same applies to all other roads and commuters in urban areas.

Instead of addressing the matter of inequity in road funding, the state and our Charlotte Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) are imposing unfair tolls on nearly all of our major regional roads in order to avoid a fight with our numerically superior rural legislators. I-77 and its overtaxed commuters will be the first victims of this unfair tolling solution unless our urban legislators demonstrate they have the backbone to represent their constituents and fix this problem. We need a fair and equitable funding formula that represents the urban tax payer before we resort to tolling any of our roads.

– Vince Winegardner, Davidson