- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina transportation officials are reassessing their contract with a company hired to build toll lanes along Interstate 77 north of Charlotte after a subsidiary of the company filed for bankruptcy on a similar project in Texas.

North Carolina Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said in a statement Wednesday night that his agency had learned of the bankruptcy and Gov. Pat McCrory ordered a review of every option to reassess the Charlotte project.

The toll lanes have been criticized by some smaller towns near Charlotte.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, who wants to replace McCrory as governor, said Thursday that McCrory should cancel the toll lane contract in light of the bankruptcy, calling the project a “boondoggle” that will now keep motorists in traffic.

Now “even Gov. McCrory has to admit that he cut a bad deal for North Carolina,” Cooper said in an interview. “He should stop stalling and cancel this project that never should have been signed to begin with.”

Earlier this week (before the bankruptcy news), McCrory said the toll project was going forward because of decisions made by elected leaders in the last decade. “I follow the lead of that elective process. It’s called representative government,” he said Monday.

But he also blamed “bad planning from the last 25 years” for having to create the toll lanes.

“That road should have been eight lanes 20 years ago,” McCrory said.

The state is trying to retrofit new construction on the existing highway based upon poor planning from the past, the governor said.

Regional transportation planners and state officials have previously defended the project with state officials saying it would cost millions of dollars to cancel the contract.

Cintra, the company contracted to build toll lanes from Charlotte to Mooresville, owns 65 percent of SH 130 Concession Co., the company that made the bankruptcy filing in Texas.

The bankruptcy filing comes after less-than-expected traffic led to lagging payments on the nearly $2 billion debt for the project.

Tennyson said he is going to Austin to meet with Texas transportation officials about the situation.

“The current contract protects taxpayers from financial losses,” Tennyson said in the statement.

Rep. Charles Jeter, a Republican who represents Mecklenburg County, said: “I’m encouraged that the governor is telling DOT to revisit the issue in light of this new information.”

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