Raleigh, N.C. — The 21st Century Transportation Committee has been meeting since November to come up with innovative ways to improve the state's transportation system. On Monday, it proposed legislation that would create a statewide public transportation fund.
Sam Hunt, a member of the committee, cited light rail in Charlotte as an example of a project done right.
"The success that Charlotte is having has, I think, been an eye-opener for everybody," he noted. "I think it's important we get North Carolina into the business of public transportation."
The committee has drafted legislation that would require the state to ante up 25 percent of a public transportation project if local voters approve a tax increase to cover the rest.
Urban areas like Charlotte, the Triangle and the Triad could see a mixture of rail and buses, while smaller communities would just see increased bus options.
Brad Wilson, the committee's chairman, acknowledges that the members don't know where the money would come from for the fund.
"It could initially be some bond money and then, later, phasing in a permanent stream of funding," Hunt suggested.
The committee expects to finalize its legislative proposal just in time for the General Assembly to take up the issue in its short session, scheduled for May.
Rather than new construction, some would prefer to see any transportation money spent to complete unfinished projects – like Interstate 540 in Wake County – without the use of tolls.