Experts: N.C.'s Transportation Woes Leading to 'Storm'

Posted November 26, 2007

— Several transportation experts said traffic in Raleigh and Charlotte could compare with that in the country's most congested cities – if nothing is done to improve the state's system in the next two or three decades.

"Staying the course is at our own peril," Beau Mills, with the League of Municipalities, said. "This is a storm we have a chance to change the course of, and it takes political fortitude and foresight."

Representatives of five statewide organizations presented their concerns about transportation to a 24-member panel on Monday. Gov. Mike Easley appointed the 21st Century Transportation Committee on Oct. 29 to to examine the state’s transportation system and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

Several transportation advocates pointed to four factors stressing the transportation system and its funding:

  • huge population growth
  • tremendous inflation costs that add hundreds of millions of dollars to delayed construction projects
  • stagnant revenue
  • more people traveling more miles

"It's a daunting task, but it's an accurate description of what we're facing here in North Carolina," said Brad Wilson, chairman of the committee and chief operating officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and the past chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Committee members said it's clear to them that the state needs more roadways, better public transportation and increased funding .

"It's scary," Mayor Allen Joines of Winston-Salem said. "You certainly look at Charlotte, and that could be another L.A. Certainly, the Raleigh-Durham area (could be) another Washington-Baltimore corridor."

The state Department of Transportation projects a $65 billion shortfall in North Carolina's transportation budget over the next 20 years.

Joines suggested ending annual transfers of hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. The 2007-2008 budget transferred $172 million.

The practice began in 1989 after the General Assembly replaced the state sales tax on cars – which went to the General Fund – with a highway use tax, which goes directly to the Highway Trust Fund.

"That's certainly a recurring theme we'll look at very seriously," Wilson said.

Other ideas mentioned Monday included higher taxes and user fees, but committee members said they will be bold and creative in formulating solutions.

The committee will issue its first set of recommendations to the General Assembly in May 2008. That short session will be state's next chance to deal with its transportation policy.

The panel will complete a final report by the end of 2008.


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  • 68_polara Nov 27, 2007

    Every year

    The state budget sends $170 million from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund every year.


  • ncwebguy Nov 27, 2007

    It is obvious few people even read the article. The "highway trust fund" raids the "general sales tax" fund. There is *no* "raiding of the gas tax" other than the federal government consitently taking more than they give back.

    There are several income streams available for roads -- per-use fees (tolls), vehicles fees (tax on vehicle sales, yearly registration/licence fees, insurance), and general fund dollars.

    Tolls would work, but they need to be applied to roads that are "luxuries" vs. "needs". As a former Outer Banks resident, the new bridges should be tolled, with residents and home owners offered unlimited use passes. The same should be offered for the south side of 540, from 40 to US 64.

    They could look into making southern 540 free from midnight to 6 am, if the cost of toll collectors may not be recouped by tolls collected.

  • haggis basher Nov 27, 2007

    How could we have enormous population growth yet have stagnant revenue? They can't all be illegals

  • 68_polara Nov 27, 2007

    It's crazy that our law makers raid the highway trust fund every year to supplement the general fund then complain that roads are under funded.

  • oyid Nov 26, 2007

    Atlanta, here we come to be just like you! I support a rail system but only to the extent that it gives traveler an option to driving within the region. On the contrary, extending public transportation further out from the urban center can potentially add other problems...such as EXPANDING the urban center and increase in pollution (garbage from heavy human traffic) as well as CRIME.

    One observation that leads me to support a campaign for additional 'transportation options' is simply that most cars on the road only have 1 person...guess who? I am guilty of it myself but because I can't hop a train/bus to the office.

  • hp277 Nov 26, 2007

    RoadGeek nailed it - too much money raised in urban areas is being diverted to rural areas to build great roads where few people live. Do we really need a billion dollars worth of bridges for tourists on the Outer Banks? How about a loop road around Pittsboro or Oxford? Give me a break.

  • jeffdewitt Nov 26, 2007

    No Dr. J, those stories aren't new, they were using them before the project was killed in an attempt to justify it, even though no one really believed that light rail would do a bit of good in reducing either traffic congestion or pollution... as a matter of fact it would have made them WORSE.

  • DrJ Nov 26, 2007

    I just can't help but think of all those people who stand to make millions and millions of dollars if any sort of light rail system is built in and around Raleigh.

    Population growth isn't new. Busy traffic around the Park isn't new. But ever since the Feds put a halt to the proposed light rail system in Raleigh, we've been treated to a steady diet of these "the traffic world's coming to an end" panic inducing articles.

  • OpinionOnEverything Nov 26, 2007

    The problem in our state is not just raiding the highway trust fund, which by the way is a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to our multi-billion dollar shortfall, but the fact that we have powerful rural legislators divert funds from growing cities and regions like RTP to areas of the state that are declining in population (like Fayetteville) and that are contributing less and less to the total state GDP.

    While the widening of I-95 is probably needed in some spots, it's no coincidence that the constituency most affected lies in or near Tony Rand's district.

  • ANYWHO Nov 26, 2007

    keep electing democrats to state offices. you voted for them now you have them. oh, i forgot about the woman rep. from orange county that got her bill passed to double womens rest rooms..they have a socialist agenda and could careless about trafffic..