Federal funding issue could put NC road projects, jobs in jeopardy
Posted June 24, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s top transportation official said Tuesday that the state could lose funding for dozens of road construction projects if Congress can’t agree on a measure to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent for the rest of the year.
“The potential that 28 percent of our budget is going to evaporate in August because the federal government cannot figure it out is a big concern,” state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said. “It’s critical, and I’m very concerned.”
The Federal Highway Trust Fund pays for road and bridge projects nationwide. The primary funding source for the fund is a federal gasoline tax.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a $9 billion plan to prevent states from facing a cutoff. The proposal, in part, calls for raising taxes on heavy trucks. Trucks over 97,000 pounds would pay $1,100 a year; the current cap is $550 for vehicles over 75,000 pounds.
But Republicans oppose the measure since it relies solely on new revenues to pay for a short-term fix to financing highway projects. They want to rebuild the fund with cuts elsewhere.
Failure to agree on a fix, Tata said, means funding will run out in August, putting 20,000 jobs and 108 transportation projects – including bridge replacements and resurfacing – at risk.
Hoping to head that off, Tata took project maps to every member of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation.
“Nobody wants to come home in August to bulldozers parked on the side of the road and 20,000 workers with pink slips,” Tata said.
The Senate finance panel is slated to vote on the measure Thursday.
One project that wouldn’t be in jeopardy, Tata said, is the Fortify project – an 11.5-mile rebuilding project of Interstates 40/440 in Raleigh. Construction is too far along on it.