Raleigh – Republican Senator Jeff Tarte earned a “full flop” from PolitiFact todayfor trying to claim he has “at no point” been in favor of tolls on I-77. In fact, he has a lengthy history supporting the toll roads dating back his time as the mayor of Cornelius. Worse, he’s knows his reelection chances are sunk because of that record, which is why he pushed a dangerous $620 million proposal that would raid transportation projects in the Mecklenburg area for years to come to buy out the I-77 tolls project.
“Not only has Senator Tarte tried to cover up his outspoken and lengthy support for tolling I-77, but he’s tried to make a bad thing worse, offering an unserious proposal to raid infrastructure projects across the region and cripple important transportation initiatives,” NCDP spokesman Robert Howard said. “It’s time for voters to show Senator Tarte the highway.”
PolitiFact: This Republican senator has flip-flopped on tolls
By Rashaan Ayesh
November 2, 2018
In a recent Charlotte Observer article highlighting the Marcus-Tarte race, Tarte, a Republican from Cornelius, said in an interview with the Observer, “At no point have I been in favor of this specific project.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party disagrees, and has a webpage dedicated to saying Tarte gave the project the “green-light before being against them.”
What’s Tarte said about the tolls?
The decision to use tolls to pay for the expansion of I-77 came in 2010 according to NCDOT’s timeline of the project. Tarte was the mayor of Cornelius, a town north of Charlotte, at the time of the decision. He was elected to the state Senate in 2013.
April 29, 2009
There are minutes from a meeting in 2009 — when Tarte was mayor of Cornelius — of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization that shows Tarte expressed some support for managed lanes, which means lanes that are operated using some types of restrictions or with tolls.
“Mr. Foxx asked Mayor Tarte about constructing I-77 lanes as managed lanes. He replied that he had no concerns with that,” according to the minutes.
The Mr. Foxx here is Anthony Foxx. He represented Charlotte on the planning organization for Mecklenburg and Union county, and went on to serve as the U.S. secretary of transportation under President Barack Obama.
May 24, 2013
During Tarte’s first year as senator, he called the tolls “the least onerous of the alternatives” for expanding I-77, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Tarte said in a phone interview with PolitiFact in 2018 that he supported tolls prior to 2014 because the state said there were no other ways to finance the project.
June 24, 2014
In an email exchange between Tarte and Anthony Tata, the former state transportation secretary, Tata said Tarte supported the project.
The email, from Tarte on June 24, 2014, reads:
“I am requesting that our State Auditor, and elected officials of the NCGA, selected by President Pro Tem as well as the Speaker, to be allowed to perform a review of the contract between NCDOT and Cintra prior to authorizing the signature of this contract.”
Tarte got a response from Tata, the same day which tells a different tale:
“At the conclusion of the meeting you indicated that you were comfortable that the I-77 project was a ‘good deal for the state.’ As you know NCDOT Director of Technical Services Rodger Rochelle and the team of professionals, some of whom were in the meeting yesterday, have performed detailed due diligence on this project.”
These emails were noted in an audit released from the office of the state auditor, Beth Wood, in June 2018.
July 1, 2014
In the Charlotte Observer, Tarte wrote an op-ed asking for Gov. Pat McCrory to properly vet the contract with Cintra — a consistent message from Tarte.
“Based on information from NCDOT, I am still in favor of tolling I-77 since this option solves the problem sooner rather than much later and will generate additional dollars for local road projects,” Tarte wrote in the article. “Simply doing nothing is not an option.”
Tarte says in the article that he takes issue with the contract with Cintra, but not with tolling.
July 18, 2014
Tarte supported the idea of high occupancy toll lanes, according to WFAE, an NPR affiliate. This article again says Tarte had questions about the specific contract that would be signed with Cintra.
Tarte says he originally supported using tolls to pay for the widening of I-77 because they were not presented with other options. Based on his public statements, he has consistently been against the contract with Cintra and asked for the contract to be vetted. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he went from supporting the tolls to completely opposing them.
We rate this a Full Flop.