Local News

Feds: Transportation Money Drying Up

Posted September 27, 2007
Updated September 28, 2007

— Federal officials sent a stern message when representatives from six Midwestern and Southeastern states, including North Carolina, asked for financing for a new highway: Don't count on the federal government to provide the transportation funding it has in years past.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run short of funds by 2009, predicts the Congressional Budget Office. The trust is currently spending $4 billion more annually than the 18.4-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax brings in.

That imbalance will mean less money for transportation projects, including highways, in which the federal government has traditionally been involved. For example, federal funds paid for around 80 to 90 percent of the bill when Interstate 40 was designed and built and when it was widened.

Local planners, including the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, say they're well aware of the approaching problem, too.

"Going in, depending on a certain level of federal support is probably wishful thinking at this point," traffic planner Ed Johnson said. "We would be better off thinking about it from a standpoint of (how) we're gonna do this locally and regionally and with state assistance, hopefully."

The Triangle's Special Transit Advisory Commission met to discuss alternative means of reducing traffic congestion. Lack of federal support could put a strain on new bus routes and high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.

Transportation planners said commuter rail is a good way to take cars off of I-40, but decreasing federal help could knock a lot of rail plans off track. They said if the federal government reduces traffic funding, state and local taxes will probably go up.

"The transit side of it is they changed the rules to where probably hardly any city in the Sunbelt of the USA is ever gonna get funding to start a new transit line," Johnson said.

"I think we're going to have to get innovative in how we look at financing transportation improvements," Mark Ahrendsen, Durham transportation director, said. "I think we need to continue to look to the federal government as a partner in this process."


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  • whatelseisnew Sep 28, 2007

    Oh yeah bridges; I started driving around them. Figured it was safer going through the water.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 28, 2007

    "Taxation without Representation" -
    Oh how I wish we could get some folks into government that would actually look out for the best interests of the people and our country. Unfortunately they look out for the best interest of the corporate entities that are giving them the money needed to get in and stay in office: Does not matter which party, they just get bought out by slightly different owners. Sometimes these owners buy any candidate, figuring the payback is well worth it. Case it point: look at the gifts our own gov and legislature are handing out here in NC. Latest on to those struggling tire companies and those struggling power companies.

    I keep hoping someday we will wise up - through them all out and try a new set.

  • ncwebguy Sep 28, 2007

    For federal transit tax dollars, North Carolina has been a donor state for the last 20+ years, if not longer. The taxes have not been adjusted for inflation, let alone the higher cost of oil, so the money dries up.

    Part of the federal transit money goes to public transit, and the Triangle could finally break even. But Senators Dole and Burr said "thanks but no thanks" to Federal matching dollars. An opportunity we'll never see again for decades.

    Meanwhile, we get stuck with toll roads for the southern loop of 540 and an I-40 that is only two lanes from Wade Ave. to 1/64.

    As for defense spending, the Office of Managment and Budget paints a different picture than others in this thread:


    In 2006, "security" was 474.2 of 843.4 billion in discretionarly spending. For 2007 and 08, that number increases, and does not include "supplemental" spending.

    For FY08, secuity goes up 10% while "other" goes up 1%.

  • grumpyhermit Sep 28, 2007

    sounds like we need to start planning our driving strategies based on the fewest number of bridges to cross ...

    or maybe drive real fast in the hopes that momentum will carry us to the other side when bridges collapse out from underneath

  • AM is Back to Being Immaculate Sep 28, 2007

    Excuse me but wasn't the gov't just given a request for $190 BILLION for this never ending war?

    Just another example of dumping money other place while not taking care of home.

  • mramorak Sep 28, 2007

    And its being used to buy someone a new car ,build a new house,boat,help there family with a new beach front home.

  • wildervb Sep 28, 2007

    Um, I hate to have to bring this up, but Federal Highway money comes from the Federal Gasoline tax. Adjusted for inflation the gasoline tax is very low. It hasn't been raised since 1993. Add another quarter to that tax and it'll be near it's historic norm. This would provide enough money for our highways.

  • ohmygosh Sep 28, 2007

    Fed funds can essentially only be used for new roads. Very little is allowed to be used for repairs.

    The states a long time ago signed on to this Faustian bargain to get new roads in exchange for assuming the future repairs. Now states are stuck with paying for the repairs and complaining.

    There needs to be a new direction. The remaining Fed money must be directed only to road repairs for a couple decades. Perhaps roads located in rural areas (e.g. I85 North) would get their fair share for desparately needed repair work. Cities like Raleigh are just going to have to get along with the roads they have.

    BTW Raleigh is still traffic free compared to real cities like New York and Boston where commutes are 2 hours or more each way.

  • wildervb Sep 28, 2007

    Funny, just two days ago, Bush asked for another 190 billion for Iraq, I guess we'll pay for the war by not improving our own infrastructure. (Realy not so funny)

  • garnertoy Sep 28, 2007

    Its time we look after our own and stop sending money every where else