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Construction on State-Funded Loop Roads Hits Roadblock

Posted January 9, 2008

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— Skyrocketing costs, flat revenues and increased demands are to blame for an incomplete loop-highway system planned out nearly 20 years ago, according to a Department of Transportation official.

The General Assembly passed a law in 1989 to raise taxes and create the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund to build urban beltlines around the state's largest metropolitan cities.

The initial seven highways – in Asheville, Charlotte, Durham Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem – were expected to be completed in 2004, but DOT manager Calvin Leggett said 60 percent of those roads have yet to be built.

Construction has yet to begin on loop roadways in Durham, Asheville and Winston-Salem.

"We started out building, thinking we'd build four-lane freeways. Well, most of them are now six- and eight-(lanes)," Leggett said. "We actually built a stretch in Charlotte four lanes, and it's over capacity. We haven't even finished the Charlotte lop, and parts need to be expanded already."

The program was to build 211 miles of loop roads at an estimated cost of $2.11 billion.

As of the end of fiscal year 2007, 155.1 miles were complete and 223.9 miles – on those remaining seven roads (not including Durham) and three new ones in Fayetteville, Gastonia and Greenville – remained and had an estimated construction cost of $5.5 billion.

The cost of the Durham loop is unknown and not included in the estimates of remaining costs.

Locally, work on N.C. Highway 540 in Wake County has come to a halt because there's no funding for future construction.

"We've been told 540, for example – it may be 2030-2035 before the next quadrant – not the whole thing but the next quadrant – may be finished," Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said.

Officials say that without a toll road or other sources of revenue, it could be decades before the next section of N.C. 540 is built.

"We're behind, and it's frustrating," Stevens said. "I'm not happy about it."


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  • ncwebguy Jan 11, 2008

    It is funny that the "Easly raids the trust fund and gas taxes go to non-highway projects" posts have come to a screeching halt once the actual facts have been presented.

    The fact is that all gas taxes are going to highway construction, repair, and re-repair (I-40 through south Durham/Chapel Hill). So we either need to build fewer roads or raise taxes to build the roads people want. Or let cities/counties/regions take over road maintenance and raise property taxes to lower gas taxes. Does anyone complain that our property taxes are too low when they complain about the gas tax? No.

    For toll roads in NC, tolls pay for that road only (no redistribution) and toll booths come down when the road is paid for. Maintenance will then be handed over to NCDOT.

    I think Fayetville and Greenville should get loops *if* they collect enough gas taxes in their area to afford them.

    If Charlotte didn't want 485 to get clogged, they shouldn't have allowed so much development south of there.

  • jeffthompson Jan 10, 2008

    Democrats & Republicans & Liberals...ALL use the roads!

    Lets NOT blame anyone and just get these roads fixed! Maybe it is time for a new Govenor...GO PAT GO!

    McCrory is BIG on transportation and Light Rail!

  • jeffthompson Jan 10, 2008

    The I-485 (Southern Loop) is a traffic nightmare here in Charlotte. It is dead stop from 3pm - 7pm. YES 4 hrs of gridlock...Mon-Fri.

    Lets prioritze here. Does Greenville or Fayetteville need a Loop worse than Charlotte or Raleigh. Doubt it!

  • Bob Sidel Jan 10, 2008

    the tolls would cover the actual construction cost of the road they occupy and be discontnued once this money is recouped, so only certain sections are going to be tolled(do you need a tissue?). Most states with tolls(the ones not still living in the stone age like NC) use toll money in order to maintain the road as well, aka the people putting the wear and tear on the road get to repair/maintain it.

  • Leonardo Jan 10, 2008

    And gas taxes are the highest in the southeast because most roads here are owned by the state. In other states, most roads are owned by counties, and are funded through property taxes, not gas taxes. As a result, we have high gas taxes, but low property taxes. When considering all sources of funding, North Carolina does very well with it's money compared with other states.

  • Leonardo Jan 10, 2008

    "The gas tax was capped, yes, but we still have the highest gas tax in the region. How much more would you have our taxes raised only to have the money spent on non-highway related projects?"

    Don't listen to conservative propaganda. The "highway trust fund raid" was a one-time $80 million transfer into the general fund (out of $3.5 billion transportation funding) back in 2001. That was the only time transportation money was diverted for non-transportation. There have been other diversions since then (2003 for example), but these have been diverting money for highway construction to other road projects (bridge replacements, etc...).

    The conservatives are simply being dishonest when they imply that money is continuously being taken from the highway trust fund to pay for things other than roads. After 2001, all gas taxes have only gone towards road maintenance and construction. Here's the budget to prove it.

  • todd23 Jan 10, 2008

    "And now taxes are capped, thanks to another Republican who can't see past today. He now thinks gas taxes should be *cut* due to higher gas prices. How does he plan on funding roads? Blame "corruption"."

    The gas tax was capped, yes, but we still have the highest gas tax in the region. How much more would you have our taxes raised only to have the money spent on non-highway related projects?

  • SheriffTruman Jan 10, 2008


    Good point. Interesting how the Trust Fund, which was to build all these loop roads where people actually drive on them, was used to build roads in the middle of nowhere for Mark Basnight and Jim Black.

  • john60 Jan 10, 2008

    The Trust Fund was originally for just the urban loops, but it was expanded to include other projects back in the 1990's, and many of those roads got built while the loops were delayed due to environmental or opposition issues. Meanwhile the construction prices went up, congestion increased, and older designs (the 4 lane Charlotte Loop section, for example) were not upgraded because that would raise the costs even higher. It's a vicious circle, to the point where there's nowhere near enough money to fund all the loops, much less all the projects that qualify for Trust Fund money.

  • charlesboyer Jan 10, 2008

    If a toll road is built for the 540 section of the southern end of Wake County, interesting questions arise:

    1. Will the whole road become a toll road? Is it fair for one segment to be free, and the other part to be toll?
    2. Will the tolls be temporary and the booths removed once the road is paid for?
    3. Will the rural counties demand equitable distribution of any toll money?