Local News

DOT stimulus spending can differ across state

Posted September 14, 2009

North Carolina has approximately $735 million in federal stimulus funding earmarked for highway and bridge improvement projects and $103 million in transit projects.

In Wake County, for example, a $2.5 million repaving job on Interstate 540 is under way between Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 70

Interstate 440 also had a recent renovation, as did U.S. Highway 64.

Some question DOT's use of stimulus funding Some question DOT's use of stimulus funding

But not everyone is happy that these projects are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"It just doesn't seem like it needed to be done," said Brenda Talton, a local real estate appraiser who regularly drives on U.S. 64. "The same type of ride we have today was the ride we had before it was paved – no cracks at all."

She, as well as other taxpayers, has expressed concerns to WRAL News and the North Carolina Department of Transportation about the stimulus money being wasted.

But Wally Bowman, a division engineer who oversees DOT projects in seven counties, including Wake and Durham, says there is a need for the projects and that doing them now can help save the state money in the future.

"Those roads need to be resurfaced, whether the people actually see the failures that are occurring there," Bowman said. "We spend a dollar today, that's $3 to $5 we don't have to spend if we get in real bad shape."

He says that when a motorist drives 65 to 70 mph on a roadway, it can sometimes be difficult to see cracks in the road. But they are there, he says, and it is critical to catch them early.

For example, in the winter, water can freeze in the cracks and lead to potholes.

Not all the stimulus dollars for highway and bridge projects, however, has to be used to repave or resurface roadways. But all of them did have to be ready to go up for a bid by June and the funding has to be committed within a year.

How the funding is distributed and what the projects are among the state's 14 divisions can also differ.

For example, Bowman's division – Division 5, which consists of Wake, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties – decided to spend most of its portion of stimulus funds resurfacing dozens of roads in all seven counties.

Wake County is estimated to get roughly $46 million; Durham, $17.5 million; and Franklin, nearly $10 million. The remaining four counties are likely to get between $1.5 and $3.8 million.

Other divisions have different approaches.

According to the DOT, Division 6, which includes Cumberland, Bladen and Harnett counties, decided to pour 98 percent of its stimulus money into the Fayetteville Outer Loop.

That means Cumberland County will see about $55 million; Bladen, nearly $1 million and Harnett $250,000. Columbus and Robeson counties will receive nothing.

Statewide, 16 counties are likely to be left out of the mix of highway and bridge stimulus money.

"(We're) not saying it's right, not saying it's wrong. We just decided that in our division, we wanted to spread it out," Bowman said. "So, we have a good cross section of projects."

Driving along one of those newly resurfaced projects, Talton still remains skeptical.

"One-third of your income is going toward taxes. That in itself is frustrating, so when you see those taxes being spent on what might not look like a good manner, it's just frustrating," she said."

23 Comments

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  • Bendal1 Sep 16, 2009

    ThinkChick,

    What in the world are you talking about in reference to NCDOT's "own pavement design"?? Those pavement designs you're talking about are based on Federal guidelines and use their rules on composition, not anything "made up" in NCDOT's labs. The only pavement design I've read of so far that has "failed" is the one on I-795, and was too thin based on an underestimated amount of traffic. Had the traffic been accurate the pavement would have been thicker, and while the installation may have still caused a failure it wouldn't have been as bad as it is turning out to be.

  • Bendal1 Sep 16, 2009

    DOT is repaving roads instead of fixing bridges because:

    1) Roads are repaved on a rotating basis
    2) Repaving doesn't require an environmental study
    3) Bridges aren't eligible for stimulus money

    Oh, and the Hillsborough Road bridge on I-440 is substandard but that doesn't mean it's about to fall apart. If you start seeing weight limit signs on it, then you can start worrying; that is the last resort when maintenance can no longer keep up with the deterioration. Right now it's just costing the state more and more maintenance money to remain functional.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 15, 2009

    "With all the bridges falling apart in NC, why are they repaving roads?"

    The bridge on I-440 over Hillsborough always gets a substandard rating every year.

    Is the DOT waiting for it to fall down before it gets fixed.

  • Leonardo Sep 15, 2009

    Space Mountain - I think you're not looking at the big picture. Sure the paving jobs don't last, but look at all the downstream spending that it creates. Construction equipment purchases (much of which is American-made equipment). Money in the pocket of the workers that go into the local economy. etc... And remember that the stimulus money is only meant to provide short-term stimulus to jump-start the economy (that's why it's called stimulus money).

    And how is it a waste? The article even says that it would have cost 3x-5x more to repair it if they had waited until it was structurally failing. Seems like a good use of money to me.

    What would YOU spend the money on that would end up creating everlasting jobs that never go away?

    I think some people just like complaining about government, plain and simple. It makes them feel superior.

  • Space Mountain Sep 15, 2009

    This is a waste of money. Why not use it to create jobs that will last instead of ones with a specific end date? Yes, the contractors make some money in the short term, but what happens when the work is completed? I just think creating new jobs that will still be here years down the road would help the economy more.

  • chargernut69 Sep 15, 2009

    DOT = NC pork barrel at it's finest!...

  • train guy Sep 15, 2009

    1/2 the state's population lives in 15 counties. I would hate to think we were spending the same mount of money on roads in each county.

  • farmboy Sep 15, 2009

    Try living on a secondary road in Northampton County that traffic, especially SCHOOL BUSES can't meet on without one getting off the road. Also holds water when it rains and ice when it freezes

  • The Fox Sep 15, 2009

    [NCSU - one of the best engineering schools in the nation - where graduates cannot find jobs in NC so we end up paying for other states' engineers.]Well, you would be shocked at how many foreign nationals-foreign born engineers work at the DOT.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 15, 2009

    "That stretch of I-540 is, what, 7-8 years old? It needs repaving already?"

    In defense of the NCDOT, The stretch of I-540 between I-40 and US-70 opened in either 1996 or 1997. Making that stretch of road either 12 or 13 years old.

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