Channel 9 exclusively spoke with I-77 Mobility Partners CEO Javier Tamargo to address concerns community groups and leaders raised vocally about a controversial project to put toll lanes on Interstate 77 from uptown to Mooresville.
For months, the project has sparked protests and numerous meetings from groups like the anti-toll Widen I-77 group currently pursuing litigation against the project.
Tamargo wanted to talk to Channel 9 to get a message out that Cintra is part of the community and is working to relieve congestion on I-77. He admitted in his one-on-one interview with reporter Jenna Deery that the managed-lane concept is complicated, but he said he believed once people understand, they won't be afraid of it.
Tamargo moved to Charlotte in October to oversee the plan of Spain-based toll lane operator Cintra to put in the toll lanes under the locally-based subsidiary, I-77 Mobility Partners.
He has led other Cintra projects in Canada and the North Tarrant Express project in Fort Worth, Texas, which opened seven months ago.
"We have more people traveling that corridor and traveling at a higher speed meaning less congestion so I think that is what a project like this can bring," Tamargo said.
The I-77 toll lane project has brought a lot of noise from community groups and leaders concerned about the company's success rate after some projects failed in other parts of the country.
"Cintra has more successes than failures and in those it has been Cintra and the investor, not the public or the state," Tamargo said. "We have a balanced portfolio of projects. Some projects are doing really good. Some projects aren't doing so well but the service to our customers is equal in all of our projects."
Cintra is in the business to collect revenue and in this case, it's all about tolls. Questions have been raised about pricing especially after early estimates showed drivers could pay up to $21 round trip during peak travel times. However, Tamargo said drivers can expect to pay similar prices to other projects he has managed which set tolls at 20 cents to 45 cents a mile or $5 to $12 round trip, depending on demand.
"We will determine for each time of the day a certain rate and then we will see how people react to that. I will tweak those numbers so we can keep free flowing in the managed lanes and attract as many customers as we can," Tamargo said.
He said the company isn't here to cheat drivers, but to offer an option that will guarantee faster travel times on a painfully congested corridor.
He said his job for the next 6 months will be getting people to believe that.
"We really want this project to be successful and to be successful we have to have people using the project and relieving the congestion in the corridor," he said.
A group of business leaders and project opponents from the Widen I-77 group declined an offer to allow Cintra at their meeting about the project Thursday night, but Tamargo said he's willing to meet with anyone willing to listen.
I-77 Mobility Partners is planning a series of community meetings before construction starts this summer.
Tamargo said Cintra has a track record of completing toll lane projects ahead of schedule.
If the company doesn't meet the completion deadline, the company will face penalties.
A groundbreaking date hasn't been set yet but the project is supposed to be completed in 2018.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 17:28:31 -0400
Mint Hill police have made an arrest in connection to a sexual assault of an 86-year-old woman at an assisted living facility.
Police arrested Willie Shaw Jr., 43, and charged him with first-degree sex offense.
Shaw was an employee at Lawyers Glen Retirement Living Center when the incident took place, police said.
The attorney representing the family of Doris Starnes told Eyewitness News that staff at the Lawyer’s Glen Nursing Home sent her to the hospital on May 14 with what appeared to be internal bleeding.
But when she got to the hospital in Matthews, doctors found evidence that she’d been assaulted.
Starnes died three days later in the hospital, police said.
Shaw is being transported to the Mecklenburg County jail.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 17:26:17 -0400
A Volvo salesperson in the Dominican Republic offered to demonstrate the Volvo XC60 *Pedestrian Safety System* before prospective buyers last week, maybe thinking, “Let’s make sure the buyers are snapping pix right in front of the car, as driver accelerates toward them. What can go wrong?”
What can go wrong actually did go wrong because this particular Volvo XC60 was not equipped with the optional Pedestrian Safety System.
That’s a $3,000 option that was not installed in the dealer demo car.
The video shows what it’s like to be a human bowling pin. Volvo acknowledged the incident happened at one of its dealerships and said none of the victims was seriously injured.
>> Click here to watch video on mobile.
Volvo said the “Self-stopping Car Accident" title on the YouTube video showing the accident is inaccurate because even if the car did have the optional pedestrian protection, it would have been overridden by the way the demonstrator was driving.
“The pedestrian detection would likely have been inactivated due to the driver inactivating it by intentionally and actively accelerating,” said Volvo spokesman Johan Larsson. “Hence, the auto braking function is overrided by the driver and deactivated.” (Source: Fusion.net)
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 16:51:38 -0400
Police have charged a 15-year-old boy who they said stole a car with a 7-year-old girl inside and then challenged officers to shoot him before they finally arrested him.
The incident started about 4:30 p.m. Thursday outside a Food Lion store on West Sugar Creek Road when a woman pulled up to the front of the store and left her car running with her daughter in the back seat as she ran inside.
She probably didn’t see the 15-year-old boy who was walking out, looking for an opportunity.
“When the suspect came out of the store he was looking for a ride home. He saw the car in the lane with the keys in it, vehicle running,” Lt. Dave Johnson said.
Johnson said the teenager was about to drive off when he noticed the little girl in the back seat.
“Thankfully he did ask the 7-year-old to get out of the car before he stole it or it could have been a much more tragic ending,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the girl ran inside and told her mother what had happened and police spotted the car nearby.
They followed it to the teenager’s neighborhood off North Tryon Street, where they finally arrested him, but not before a frightening confrontation.
“He challenged our officers to shoot him, bit one of the officers in the hand. Our officers thankfully showed great restraint in being able to take him into custody,” Johnson said.
Since he is only 15 police have not released the suspect’s name.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 16:41:35 -0400
A serious crash happened Friday afternoon at Old Beatty Ford and Rockwell roads in Rowan County.
Chopper 9 is over the scene.
Stay with www.wsoctv.com and watch Eyewitness News for more details.
To see more local news stories, click here.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 16:24:56 -0400
An Atlanta Falcons football player is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend’s dog.
Gwinnett County police charged Prince Shembo with felony aggravated cruelty to animals. He has not been arrested yet.
Shembo’s ex-girlfriend, Denicia Williams, told police the incident happened when she and her dog, Dior, went to Shembo’s Buford home on April 19.
Williams says she left Shembo and the 5-pound Yorkie unattended and later found the dog unresponsive. Dior died at the Duluth Animal Hospital.
Williams says Shembo told her he had kicked the dog.
Channel 2’s Tony Thomas spoke with Williams’ stepmother about the incident. Sherron Williams told him the two began dating in January. By April, Williams says, the 254-pound NFL player became jealous of the dog.
“She is attached to the dog. He had wanted her attention more than the dog, and I think that’s what it was,” Sherron Williams said.
But still, Williams says Shembo didn’t seem capable of doing this, and she was shocked by the allegation.
"Dior was sweet. Dior was loving, very playful. He was a sweetheart,” said Sherron Williams. “I still can’t get over it; I find myself crying.”
Police say they waited to file charges until necropsy results came back on Thursday.
“It was determined that the dog died of blunt force trauma and had significant injuries,” said Cpl. Michele Pihera, with the Gwinnett County Police Department.
Police say they have already interviewed Shembo, but his story and the test results don't add up.
The Williams family has hired a civil attorney and plans to file a lawsuit.
The Falcons picked Shembo in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Friday afternoon, they let him go, releasing the following statement.
“We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo. We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo.”
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 16:19:09 -0400
An injured hiker was recovering Friday night after he fell along a trail Friday afternoon in Avery County.
More than two dozen rescuers from Avery and Caldwell counties scrambled to reach the injured hiker in the rain.
The man slipped on slick rocks, injuring his knee, and couldn't get out on his own.
Many of the volunteers have worked four rescues this week.
"I think 99 percent of these guys are all volunteers,” Derick Calloway of Linville Central Rescue said. “What makes them do it? I guess for the fact they made need the same help one day."
Rescuers took turns carrying the injured man, who they say weighed 270 pounds.
Heavy rain during the last 24 hours made it difficult to navigate the trail.
Paramedics said the man's injury is not serious.
Return to www.wsoctv.com for updates.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 15:34:33 -0400
Rowan County authorities are looking for a woman who stole a 7-week-old puppy from a local animal shelter.
Someone had just brought in the stranded puppy in, but it wasn't up for adoption yet, officials said.
Officials said a woman walked into the shelter Tuesday, asked to look at a brown Labrador mix and walked out with the dog when nobody was looking.
The woman is described as white, in her late 40s to early 50s, 5 feet, 8 inches tall, blond and wearing a dress.
The woman was last seen leaving the shelter in a late-model burgundy four-door Toyota Camry.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 866-639-5245.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 15:24:46 -0400
Warning: This story contains graphic images.
A horrific case of animal abuse is generating a great deal of discussion on social media, as well-wishers offer support for a stray dog that was found with its muzzle taped shut.
The Charleston Animal Society is taking care of the 15-month-old Staffordshire mix, which has been named Caitlyn.
The dog faces life-threatening injuries because the electrical tape cut off blood flow to her tongue. The dog is believed to have had its muzzle taped shut for up to 48 hours.
“This is the most malicious case of animal abuse I have seen in my entire career,” Charleston Animal Society Director of Anti-Cruelty & Outreach Aldwin Roman said.
However, the latest Facebook update offered a glimmer of hope.
The Charleston Animal Society said Thursday that Caitlyn is “doing well given her condition” and was to be taken to a specialty facility for further treatment on Friday.
The dog was well known in the neighborhood, and was known to be very friendly.
The society is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible. If convicted of ill treatment of an animal, the guilty person could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Warning: Graphic images
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 14:22:00 -0400
Members of the North Mecklenburg High School rugby team will play in the state championship match Saturday in honor of a player who drowned this week.
Marcos Hernandez drowned while swimming at Latta Plantation Tuesday.
Family friends set up a go fund me account, to help Hernandez’s family with funeral costs. DONATE HERE.
They are trying to raise up to $6,000.
Several team members gathered at church Thursday to pray for their friend.
The team posted a photo on its Instagram page of him celebrating after a state semifinal win over Hough High School Friday night. VIEW the photo tribute
“He had a rare combination of fearlessness and compassion,” said head coach Bo Pasko.
“He was tough. He wasn’t afraid,” said teammate Anthony Reccinos.
Marco will be laid to rest Sunday.
The funeral is at the Church of God on Hickory Street in Cornelius.
Leave your condolences for Hernandez's family and teammates on our Facebook page.
Read our past coverage:
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 13:50:59 -0400
Federal investigators and the Cary Police Department are working to learn who might have placed an explosive device on an SUV that blew up Thursday afternoon as a man was driving.
The explosion happened around 4:30 p.m. on Glade Hill Drive near Middle Creek High School. The area is in an Apex mail zone, but is in the Town of Cary's police jurisdiction.
The driver of the SUV was about a mile from his house on Moneta Lane when a device exploded on his blue Ford Explorer.
"I have vandalization to my car. I guess you would say attempted murder. I don't know," said the man in a call to 911.
Police evacuated at least 10 homes near the explosion site while they investigated. The residents were allowed to return around 11 p.m.
Officials consider the explosion an isolated event and do not believe there is any threat to the public.
At least 10 homes near the Ford Explorer were evacuated while authorities investigated the package and vehicle. The evacuated residents were allowed back into their homes just before 11 p.m.
The man said he was bruised but did not have any other injuries.
Officials shut down Optimist Farm Road between Pierce Olive Road and West Lake Road at around 5:45 p.m. to make way for a Fort Bragg bomb squad.
Police said they consider the driver a victim.
ABC11 WTVD reported. Click here to read the original story and hear the 911 call.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 13:37:07 -0400
Almost everyone has tried at least once that old game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Well, you could call next weekend's family reunion...the "Six (or more) Degrees of You!"
Let's back up.
A.J. Jacobs came up with a genealogy project and he wanted to get some big names into the game, namely former President George H.W. Bush and to do so, he pulled the family card.
The New York Times reported Jacobs called Bush's chief off staff and said he was a cousin of the former commander-in-chief. And he wasn't lying. Jacobs, according to research is 21 steps away from the president.
He's also distant, ok really, really distant, cousins with Ludacris and Daniel Radcliffe, according to the Times' article.
So what do you do when you can say that you're related to a president, a rapper and a wizard (ok actor)? You hold The Global Family Reunion.
The epic reunion will be held June 6 at the New York Hall of Science.
It's promising, like any family get-together, crafts, potato sack races, genealogy, and "lots of celebrity cousins."
Those with a connection to the world's biggest family tree, which according to the Global Family Reunion has 77 million people on it, will be able to take part in the largest family photo in history.
The reunion will also help the fight against Alzheimer's and all proceeds of the event will go to Alzheimer's research.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 13:31:45 -0400
Lt. Steve Huber said patrolling the streets of Charlotte has gotten exponentially easier for officers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s North Division because of new laptops with 4G modems and routers, Lt. Steve Huber said.
"I felt like the first caveman that had discovered fire because I was one of the first to get this system and it is such a major improvement over what we had before," Huber said.
Most functions, like completing police reports, videos, mapping areas and detection of electronic monitoring devices could be done before, but it took so much longer that officers would choose to return to the office to do it. The computers to do those functions are now in their vehicles.
"The technology now is just as good in the car as it is sitting in the office," Huber said.
That's because of an $8 million federal grant the city received from the Broadband Technology Opportunity program. The increased speed saves time on one end and gives officers more time in the field.
"Officers are able to solve crimes a lot quicker while they're there in the field,” Maj. Lisa Goeltz said. “They're more visible in the community, which means there's a higher perception of safety in our community, which is very important to us."
In addition to the police patrol cars, fire stations across the city will also be equipped with the new technology to make firefighting more efficient as well.
"Now we have the technology to support that sense of urgency," Huber said.
Once all aspects of the federal BTO program are in place, Charlotte will be among the first cities able to log onto a special broadband just for police, fire and public safety officials.
To see more local news stories, click here.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 12:33:37 -0400
It’s been several days since the flooding in Texas wiped out multiple cities and towns in the state.
Channel 9 has received more information from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
The team has been assisting organizations and citizens of Texas since Wednesday.
As pictured above, soaked belongings were scattered along the streets of San Marcos.
In addition to the damaged personal items, other damages included RV that was slammed against a tree, authorities reported.
Sources said homeowners are frustrated with the flooding.
"I’ve got a lot of cleaning up to do as soon as it goes back down," one homeowner said.
The storm has resulted in at least 25 deaths, 21 of them in Texas. A number of people are still missing.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 12:18:23 -0400
A lost pig has turned into a viral sensation for one Michigan police department.
Resident Debbie DeRiemaecker called police after a large pig chased her into the front yard of her home. Despite the surprise encounter, DeRiemaecker told WXYZ that she was laughing as she called 911.
Police responded quickly and were able to corral the pig into the back seat of a patrol car. Someone managed to snap an epic photo of the pig looking out the back window with a pleased expression on its face.
The Shelby Township Police Department posted the photo on its Facebook page, where it has quickly gone viral.
The pig was reunited with its owner, but not before relieving itself in the patrol car.
The pig’s owner cleaned the patrol car.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 12:10:54 -0400
For more than 12 hours a busy highway in Cabarrus County has been closed because of a water main break.
At one point 150 homes and businesses off Highway 49 had little to no water.
A city representative told Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon that the road should be repaired and back open sometime Friday evening, but probably not by the time people are commuting home.
They said the good news is the waterline is repaired, but business owners said it's already too late.
The neon in front of Integrity Flooring signals that they are open, but the sign across the street says, “Road closed.”
"We have not had anybody come in at all,” said co-owner Jennifer Spicer.
Her showroom is empty. She said it is because police set up the detour for northbound traffic about half a mile south of the store.
Anyone headed to the store from Charlotte would have to wait in a long line winding almost a mile north.
“They will keep going up towards Concord and probably buy their flooring elsewhere," Spicer said.
She thinks she has lost half of her business Friday.
"How do you make that up?" Lemon asked.
"We really can't,” Spicer said.
Studio 7 Salon had to shut down too.
“Halfway through the day we were rinsing clients (when) the water just started to trickle," said stylist Beth Branscum. "It really takes away the luxury of getting your hair shampooed and blow dried and also getting color washed out."
There were empty seats in what should be a packed salon. The owners believe they lost about 75 percent of their business Friday.
Business owners said it's not the first time this has happened. Three weeks ago a water main break blocked traffic for days.
City officials said they are not sure what caused the break.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 11:48:14 -0400
A man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman at an MBTA station and subsequently attempting to fight officers.
Officers responded to Downtown Crossing station just after 9 a.m. Thursday. When they arrived, they were met by a woman who said she was indecently assaulted by a man while walking from the Orange Line to the Red Line.
>> Read more trending stories
The woman pointed out the man, later identified as 30-year-old Josue Estrada, that she said assaulted her, and officers approached him.
When officers went to take him into custody, they say Estrada challenged them to a physical confrontation and referred to himself as a "ninja."
Police were able to gain control of the suspect and arrest him. Estrada was charged with indecent assault and battery. He is expected to be arraigned Friday.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 11:10:35 -0400
A traffic stop in Caldwell County led to attempted first-degree murder charges against a Lenoir man.
Ronnie Lee Bentley is locked up without bond after sheriff deputies made the arrest Thursday.
Investigators said they learned Bentley had plans to harm his former live-in girlfriend.
Deputies said when they stopped Bentley they found evidence in the car linked to the case.
Investigators did not release more information about the evidence.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 10:38:46 -0400
Former four-star recruit and Vanderbilt University basketball standout Dai-Jon Parker died Thursday in a drowning accident in Indiana.
Parker, 22, was being pulled behind a boat on an inner tube on a lake near Bloomington, Ind.. The boat hit a wake or a wave, and Parker and another man, who were not wearing life vests, were thrown from the boat.
The other man survived, but police said Parker was not a good swimmer.
The 22-year-old Dai-Jon Parker, of Lawrenceville, Ga., played three season at Vanderbilt before transferring to the University of Indianapolis last season.
He is originally from Baton Rouge, La.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings issued a statement following the news:
“"We are extremely saddened with the news of Dai-Jon's death," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. "Everyone who watched him play basketball knew what kind of athlete he was. But, to those of us who knew him and loved him, he was as good and happy of a person as you would ever meet. He always had a smile on his face and I will always remember him for that smile and the positive spirit he had. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to his family, friends, and others who were lucky enough to have met him. The Vanderbilt basketball family will miss him."
Parker's high school coach, David Boyd, posted on Twitter:
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 10:17:07 -0400
Alysa Whetro of Seminole County was bitten Sunday while swimming off the coast of Cocoa Beach to celebrate her birthday.
"When it bit me, I felt like a pain, like a sharp pain, and then I pulled my foot up," Alysa said.
Alysa's father was down the beach when he noticed a crowd gathering around his daughter.
"In a horror movie, in that moment when they open the door and it's a complete fright, that is what she looked like," he said.
Surgeons put a graft from an umbilical cord on her Achilles tendon to help her get back on her feet.
But unlike other horror movies, Alysa's story has a happy ending.
Published: Fri, 29 May 2015 09:42:43 -0400