Editorial: Your highway dollars at work

Published 12:58 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Laurels and hallelujah to the widening of Interstate 85 that’s under way in southern Rowan County.

For years, southbound drivers have squeezed through the bottleneck created by the roadway’s transition from four lanes to two near China Grove. Northbound drivers ran into the same problem near Kannapolis. When all is said and done, traffic should flow much more smoothly and safely.

That’s your tax dollars at work — nearly 108 million of them. Lane Construction won the project contract with a bid price of $107,933,118. The investment will not only improve traffic flow; it should also dramatically improve development potential for that part of the county.

On second thought, save the hallelujahs for the anticipated 2019 completion, since road construction inevitably brings frustrations. Bridges will close, traffic patterns will shift and exits will be reconfigured. Curse words will fly. Just remember the advice of resident engineer Kelly Seitz: “Follow signs, pay attention and be patient.”

Laurels to the decision by Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to stop defending the state’s voting law, a legislative rewrite designed to make voting more difficult.

Many people mistakenly think of this as purely a voter identification law. If that were the only change in the law, an ID requirement, the law probably would have passed constitutional muster. Other tweaks, however, looked suspiciously like efforts to keep African-Americans away from the polls, so the U.S. Court of Appeals blocked the law.   

Bob Hall, executive director of the voting-rights organization Democracy North Carolina, said the decision could save taxpayers millions of dollars — “and save millions of voters from needless cuts to early voting and the elimination of safety-net protections (like same-day registration) that improve the elections system for everyone.”

What happens now is complicated and unclear. Democrats Cooper and Stein have dismissed attorneys hired by Republican then-Gov. Pat McCrory to seek a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the law. Republican leaders in the General Assembly say Cooper and Stein can’t do that, so even the question of authority could lead to a prolonged fight. That’s too bad. The sooner the state can abandon this version of the law, the better.