Overhaul in Road Funding, DOT Structure Urged

Posted February 28, 2008

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— North Carolina needs to shift highway construction funds from rural to urban areas, come up with new ways to finance roads and overhaul the state Department of Transportation, according to a report issued Thursday.

The North Carolina Justice Center, a think tank that advocates for low- and moderate-income residents, says the population boom statewide and rising construction costs will require the General Assembly and the DOT to change in the coming year so that state highways don't become overwhelmed.

The DOT has been dogged in recent months by a state audit and a consultant's report that describe it as an agency lacking in direction and plagued by poor planning.

"There's a lot of waste in DOT, and there's a lot of waste in the legislative formulas that allocate how money is spend and where it's spent in North Carolina," said Steve Jackson, a policy analyst with the group.

This comes as a governor's study group is planning to present a $2 billion bond proposal to the Legislature in May that that would speed up road projects across the state.

“North Carolina’s transportation budget is in crisis,” Jackson said. “Construction and maintenance costs are increasing at a far greater rate than revenues. A comprehensive solution that addresses revenue, spending priorities and project delivery is required.”

The report also calls for replacing the state gas tax with revenue sources that better match fees and charges with actual road use, such as a levy on the number of miles traveled.

It also calls for abolishing the system in which road money is spread evenly across the state, focusing instead on critical needs such as easing congestion in urban areas.

Jackson says rural areas, specifically in the northeastern and western parts of the state, are getting more money per capita.

“Money that should be spent reducing congestion and improving roads in municipal areas is being, and has been spent, on multilane roads in areas serving few residents,” Jackson said.

More money must also be spent on mass transit, and land-use planning needs to be integrated with transportation spending to limit the sprawl that adds to commuting times and distances, according to the report.


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  • ncwebguy Feb 29, 2008

    If we really wanted to see what the cost of roads were in this state, we could stop the "trust fund raiding" and let DOT get by on the current funds plus the "$170 million/year robbery".

    But NC DOT will never go for this because the public would realize just how much NC DOT is "raiding" the general fund. It has nothing to do with smart start or other "pet projects" and everything to do with paying for the same job twice (I-40 in Durham, the I-95 spur gong to Mt. Olive), overpaying contractors so they can give kickbacks (down east and elsewhere), and building roads decades before they are needed (US 64 and 264 east of I-95).

    When the true cost of roads and their upkeep comes to light, the gas tax cap will look extremely shortsighted.

  • Leonardo Feb 28, 2008

    "Dianadarling, that was a great URL that you provided. I had not seen that one before now. We are getting fleeced by DOT more than I had originally thought."

    Wait...why is this a great URL? The only thing this article claims is that money was wasted because projects aren't completed on time. I have two issues with that assessment: 1) There are a variety of reasons why projects do not complete on time (weather, unanticipated construction issues, etc...). You cannot automatically call this 'waste'. and 2) They treating inflation-adjusted dollars as real dollars. Just because your $100,000 house was worth $10,000 in 1970 doesn't mean it's really worth 10x what it used to, since a dollar isn't worth what it used to. Same goes with the assumption that construction costs are higher in 'real' dollars. (btw...they are, but not as much as this 'study' assumes).

  • jamesjmoore999 Feb 28, 2008

    Dianadarling, that was a great URL that you provided. I had not seen that one before now. We are getting fleeced by DOT more than I had originally thought.

  • Leonardo Feb 28, 2008

    Rolling Along: "they have been transferring money from the Highway fund SINCE 2001 at the rate of $170+million a year."

    Yes...I'm not arguing that point. My point is that the money is being transferred to road maintenance projects because there isn't enough funding for upkeep of existing roads. So yes, it's being diverted from the fund for new highways, but ultimately, it's still being used for road construction.

    This seems to be a common point of confusion (perpetuated by Bill Graham). Money is NOT being transferred from the highway trust fund into the general fund every year. This was only done one time in 2001. Even sites like don't get this point right. You have to actually look at the state budget numbers to see what's going on.

  • Rolling Along Feb 28, 2008

    Leonardo...they have been transferring money from the Highway fund SINCE 2001 at the rate of $170+million a year.

  • Rolling Along Feb 28, 2008

    Are they going to give me a refund for the miles driven in a different state? I drive 48,000-50,000 miles a year. I would estimate that less than 1/3rd of that is in NC. If they think they have problems now, just wait until they try to enact that law. Also what about the people that are using our roads from another state. If they buy gas in NC at least they are contributing something. I am willing to wager that not only will they attempt to tax you based on mileage, they will also leave the gas tax in place and probably raise the personal property tax on vehicles as well as the registration costs....time to ride my bicycle!

  • Space Mountain Feb 28, 2008

    How about we stop spending money on roads and use it for a mass transit system that would really work.

  • dougdeep Feb 28, 2008

    Good luck getting the legislature to pass that! I can't imagine the majority of these guys will vote to reduce highway spending in their areas.

    Or.. Maybe, just maybe, our politicians will stand up and do the right thing for North Carolina. I'm not hopeful.

  • Space Mountain Feb 28, 2008

    This should be under the no duh catagory.

  • Leonardo Feb 28, 2008

    Another thing...the amount of money shifted to the general fund in 2001 would have only paid for 1/8 mile of the outer loop. So you can't blame that one shift in funding with all of our transportation funding.