State House Puts Brakes on Turnpike-Funding Bill

Posted August 1, 2007
Updated August 2, 2007

— State House lawmakers on Wednesday said they would not approve a bill that called for raising vehicle registration fees and the vehicle sales tax to build toll roads.

Supporters said the decision was bad news for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, which was depending on the increases to start paying for the Triangle Expressway, an 18.8-mile stretch of road promised to ease traffic congestion in the Triangle.

The Triangle Expressway would be a toll road that would connect the Durham Freeway with Interstate 540, as well as extend a western leg to Holly Springs.

Senate Bill 1352 would have raised vehicle registration fees by $15 and the sales tax on vehicles by 1 percentage point to generate money to build toll roads. It passed the Senate, but did not get out of the House of Representatives.

"It is just plain and simple," said David Joyner with the Turnpike Authority. "This is the down payment we needed on the house."

Members of the Turnpike Authority said they were depending on revenue generated by the bill's provisions to generate $18 million in gap funding so the authority could start building the road.

"You know, they just don't want to hear a tax increase, right now, after the budget, and you know it's understandable," Joyner said. "We're just kind of left out of the mix."

The law had the potential to raise $300 million for new roads across the state. Without it, Joyner said, many projects are in limbo while traffic gets worse.

"We've got to do something about the dwindling resources that are being used for transportation," Joyner said. "I think we all need to take a deep breath and figure out a holistic approach to transportation in this state and come back with a plan."

One opponent of making the Triangle Expressway a toll road said he sees the Legislature's rejection of the plan as a fork in the road.

"It'll hopefully bring us back to the table with a more reasonable plan to complete the Outer Loop without tolls," Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said.

North Carolina must invest in road infrastructure if it expects its cities to compete with other growing metropolitan areas, traffic experts say.

"You've got to continue to make these investments, because other cities aren't stopping," said Joe Millazo, executive director of Raleigh Transportation Alliance.

Supporters of the Interstate 540 extension said they hope something can be worked out before the short session of the General Assembly next May.

Some options floated by state and transportation officials include making all of N.C. 540 a toll road, getting the Department of Transportation to contribute more money or selling the new stretch of the highway to a private turnpike company.

Meanwhile, the cost of the Triangle Expressway is growing at a rate of $3.5 million each month because of inflation, the Turnpike Authority said.


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  • Obscurite Aug 2, 2007

    Keep 'em comin' Ben. At least you can get a job in comedy.

  • Obscurite Aug 2, 2007

    "Well, my mind also assumes you should go to a good school while you're here. I believe the word you're trying for is "Obscurity". That's spelled with a "t" - not an "e"."

    LOL...did you even read your own post...the moniker I have is the french spelling of the word...I do know my "y" from my "t" though. So much for attending a good school.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Aug 2, 2007

    North Carolina does not need a Turnpike Authority or toll roads. The State has plenty of money for roads if the legislature would stop raiding the Highway Fund and be required to replace money previously "borrowed" from it and never repaid.

  • Firedog201 Aug 2, 2007

    Take money out of all of the entitlement programs where is should not be in the first place and put it into the highway fund.. then you build the roads you need w/o tolls. I am glad this did not pass.

    How much money have we wasted talking about and planning this stupid train idea from Raleigh to the park?

  • dsdaughtry Aug 2, 2007

    I do not mind tolls. I am so used to them anyhow living up in Northern Virginia. The only problem I saw was they never go away.

  • Dr. Ben Dover Aug 2, 2007

    "LOL...and thus the narrow mind makes the assumption that I am a Yankee when, in fact I hale from out west. Thanks for playing though."

    Well, my mind also assumes you should go to a good school while you're here. I believe the word you're trying for is "Obscurity". That's spelled with a "t" - not an "e".

  • goobnav Aug 2, 2007

    I-80 was overturned PA is going to put tolls on it by 2009. But FHWA is budgeted by Congress and the oversight is through Congress, they can't allow a break in a passed Act, FHWA 1956 w/o an amendment specific to the request, you can't change what's written w/o Congressional approval, if PA bulit a direct freeway to freeway interchange in Breezewood they have to do it with Turnpike comission dollars or they have to release tolls on 70/76 once the upgrade is completed and paid back with Federal funds, See the link for what happened in Richmond.

  • Nobody but Carolina Aug 2, 2007

    ....and boy does that I 95 corrider need major upgrading along with portions of I 85.

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 2, 2007

    goobnav; I think we agree on most things, but to narrow it down a little I'll be more specific around financing. Also, if you can provide the source for your claims please do so.

    To the best of my understanding and research (and I'm not a lawyer), FEDERAL funds cannot be used in the contruction of NEW toll booths on interstate highways, but only for EXISTING toll booths up to the time the road has been paid for by that revenue. The financing of NEW tolls on existing interstates must be borne totally by the state, pending permission by the federal highway administration on a case-by-case basis--NOT Congress. This permission is only granted to the state under the limitation that ALL funds collected by the state are used to maintain and upgrade the existing interstate, and NO OTHER PURPOSE.

    Congress can pass a law to prohibit tolling an existing interstate as they did with I80, but I don't think their statutorial permission required to install tolls.

  • wildervb Aug 2, 2007

    Hey Taxman,

    I oppose the Tolls also, but the government does need taxes to do our business. Otherwise how would any roads get built?