CORNELIUS – The Cornelius town board decided May 6 to vote in support of the public-private partnership (P3) HOT lanes project along Interstate 77.

The board will share it's support with the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization on May 22, when MUMPO will take final action on whether to proceed with the project. Cornelius Commissioner Chuck Travis will cast Cornelius’ vote in support of the HOT lanes project.

The board split in the vote, with Travis and Commissioner John Bradford supporting the toll lanes and commissioners David Gilroy and Jeff Hare voting against them. Mayor Lynette Rinker broke the tie with a vote of support.

“The future of North Mecklenburg, the economic vitality, depends on additional capacity, sooner rather than later on I-77,” Rinker said. “This is the only viable project that is going to be put before us.”

The decision came two days after N.C. Rep. Robert Brawley, of Mooresville, publicly voiced his opposition to the toll lanes project.

Travis made the motion on May 6 in favor of including the P3 HOT lane project in MUMPO’s project plans. MUMPO must receive a majority vote in favor of the project before it can move forward.

Gilroy requested to make a substitute resolution, asking for MUMPO to rank the project under the organization’s new scoring system before proceeding with the vote. That vote failed along the same voting lines.

In the town board’s pre-meeting, Kurt Naas, founder of Widen, the community group opposed to HOT lanes, outlined MUMPO’s new ranking system and postured where a general-purpose lanes project might fall under the new ranking.

“If we go through this ranking process, we’d be poised to see a much higher priority,” he said.

Under MUMPO’s old ranking system, the I-77 widening project sat 93rd on the priority list. Naas suggested that a general purpose lanes project along I-77 would jump to the top of the priority list under the new ranking system.

“Is this what I would have chosen? Is this my preferred solution for this?” Rinker asked. “Absolutelty not. I don’t want managed lanes. But the fact of the matter is that this project never has been a (general purpose lanes) project. The (general purpose) lanes was a false narrative. It was never a real possibility. The vote was between managed lanes and nothing for an undetermined period of time.”