Local News

State Road Money Shrinking as Congestion Increases

Posted August 20, 2007
Updated November 26, 2007

— The state Legislature budgeted less money for transportation projects in 2007, despite a study by UNC-Charlotte researchers that ranks the state's traffic congestion among the country's 10 worst.

NC Go!, a statewide transportation advisory group, studied the budget passed by the 2007 General Assembly. The group pointed out several cuts:

  • a $6.5 million decrease for new road construction
  • a $41 million reduction in urban maintenance funds
  • a $170 million transfer from the state's Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund

The Department of Transportation projects a $65 billion shortfall in the state's transportation budget over the next 20 years. The 2007 budget signed by Gov. Mike Easley contained no steps to cover the funding gap.

"We have less money available for new construction. That's going backwards," Beau Mills, chairman of NC Go!, said. "We're really concerned about that."

The cuts eventually pass the bill for road work down the line to local governments, municipal leaders said.

In 2006, Cary spent $23 million to work on state-owned roads in the town – a sum that Cary engineers said is greater than the state paid to fix roads across Wake County.

Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said that state promises for road funding are a decade late. His community cannot pay for road in work in the range that Cary has and must wait for the state to act, Williams said.

Lawmakers are considering holding a special General Assembly session in the fall to discuss transportation funding, but some legislators have said that wouldn't be the most effective way to deal with the issue.

"There's no sense in bringing back 170 legislators to discuss something in a hodge-podge manner," Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said. "Go ahead and have the transportation committees from the House and Senate come back and discuss what our needs are."

Easley has called for a study group to examine the state's road needs.

The Legislature is mulling multiple options to cover the long-term gap in the transportation budget, including building toll roads, creating local tax districts and raising vehicle-registration and highway-use fees.

Lawmakers are also considering raising the state's gas tax. North Carolina currently has the fifth-highest state gas tax in the country.

Beyond a special session in the fall, the next opportunity for the Legislature to address transportation funding will be during the short session to be held in May 2008.


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  • crwinsmore Aug 21, 2007

    I just don't understand why more people aren't pushing for flex hours and most employers treat the topic like it's taboo. It seems like a very high percentage of congestion could be eased if commuting periods were spread out. I realize that is a temporary solution given the Triangle's rate of growth, but we've read how far behind road funding is.

  • killerkestrel Aug 21, 2007

    Well, they got a figure wrong in the story. It isn't a 65 million dollar shortfall over the next 20 years, but actually a 65 BILLION dollar shortfall. The shortfall is actually larger than the expected revenues! Most folks are paying about $350 a year in gas tax per car, less than they pay for cable or phone service. If the gas tax and vehicle sales tax were doubled, there would be no shortfall, and we could replace many of these bridges that are in poor condition and widen roads that have congestion.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 21, 2007

    If Governor Sleasy and his Democrat cronies in the house and Senate weren't moving 170 million a year from the highway trust fund to the general fund we wouldn't be in this mess.

    Highway funds paid for by the gas tax shouldn't be used to funding socialist feel good social programs.

    If they aren't going to use all of the gas tax for road construction and maintenance, they should reduce the gas tax.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Aug 21, 2007

    blindasabat, I had a little trouble understanding the 1st part of your post, but it is clear you are no fan of bike paths.

    My preference is to have wide outer lanes with bikes and cars on the same roads, but if the bike paths had better connectivity they would get much more use. It cost much less to accomadate a bike than a car. If more people felt safe commuting by bike, you would have less cars in your way on the road. In addition to cleaner air to breath and cheaper gas. Why all the hostility towards such an inexpensive win-win situation?

  • pleshy Aug 21, 2007

    tsherbet - no they cannot move all of the money collected, but under the statute as written (you know that thing called the law) the legislature can move 170M or close to that amount back every year. It stems from the first year of the law and the surplus the gas tax was creating that was funding education and other items. It is a part of the statute, thus legal, thus not stealing.

  • pleshy Aug 21, 2007

    Yeah, not so much on the "privatize national defense". By the way, if you privatize everything government does, who controls the very things everyone here complains about: growth, zoning, permiting, roads. If I have the money, I would contract to build roads, but how would I do it from point a to point B, if I can't afford to buy the dirt in between my house and the shopping mall. Without the police power, no road ever get built that goes anywhere but to your property line. Step over that and you are trespassing? Come on. Be serious. You can't privatize everything government does. Tell you what - you pay for natinal defense. How many aircraft carriers can you afford? Stelth fighters? How many marines can you feed, clothe and arm and pay. Somethings only get done by a government with the power to tax and the power of eminent domain.

  • tsherbert Aug 21, 2007

    It is always worth calling 170 legislators back to Raleigh if they didn't do the job they were elected to do while they were here. I couldn't run my businass like that and stay in business, nor would I deserve to. Maybe Gov. Mikes more at four can teach our future drivers how to dodge pot holes and such. North Carolina used to be known as "The Good Road State" and it was a program the was envied by other states. Now our "elected officials" downtown Raleigh seem to think the transportation trust fun is only to be used to compensate for their out of control spending and big corporate tax insentives. We need money? We can just move it from the Highway Trust fund to the general fund at will. That's the way to balance the budget, Huh? Almost all of them seem to forget WHO they work for, It's not THEIR money, It's OURS!!! Time to clean house (senate and Gov. office too)

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Aug 21, 2007

    see now pleshy....you said something I could get on board with, then you went and insulted someone else??? You ARE correct, government is NOT the answer. THAT'S what the whole problem IS. The MORE they tax you, the BIGGER the government is. If you want to see real progress, PRIVATIZE everything the government does, and guess what....I think that could go for everything, possibly even defense. When you walk into the NCDOT building off of Poole rd, you see THOUSANDS of employees that could be MUCH more efficient working for a private consultant having to work under budget constraints, and on a deadline.

  • pleshy Aug 21, 2007

    OhYeah - the fact that the funding statute creating the Highway funding allows the transfers at issue is discussed in prior posts. You can look there for the cure to you ignorance on the ability of the Legislature to make such transfers.

  • blindasabat Aug 21, 2007

    When u people going to wakeup and stop building the million $ flyovers for the who use the yuppie bike paths.Look at the one at Wade ave,sure does get alot of use!!! Right. Its time to stop the mindless spending and keep Mikes hands out of the trustfund !!!!