Raleigh, N.C. — The Department of Transportation would be able to add toll lanes to highways under a bill that cleared the state House Tuesday.
All existing highway lanes would have to remain free under the measure. But if highways were expanded, the department could toll them in order to pay for the construction. In order to entice people to drive on the tolled lanes, the department could offer limited access and higher speed limits.
The measure was thought to have passed the House Thursday. But it is a "roll call" bill, meaning it could potentially raise money. Such bills must be voted on two separate days. So it was back before the House Tuesday.
Although it passed 113-0 on Thursday, there was controversy on today's vote. That's because unnoticed by some members, a provision that would have required the General Assembly to sign off on any toll road before it could be built had been removed.
Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, told members that his deal to get the bill done with the DOT and state Senate was predicated on that provision being left out.
That didn't stop Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, from offering an amendment to add the language back in.
"I don't think it's a good idea to leave it in DOT's hands which roads get tolled and which don't," he said, adding that was a decision for elected policy makers not "unelected bureaucrats."
Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said Speciale's amendment would inject politics back into road making decisions, something the legislature had been trying to avoid.
Brawley and Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, also pointed out that there were pending toll projects in their districts which the prior-approval language could derail.
"Let us finish our toll road," Dollar said, referring to the I-540 project.
The amendment failed 16-99. The bill itself passed 108-7. It will now be heard in the Senate.