Local Politics

State Committee to Study Transportation Needs, Funding

Posted October 29, 2007 12:40 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2007 2:39 p.m. EDT

— State officials on Monday announced the creation of a committee to examine the condition and needs of North Carolina’s transportation system and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The 21st Century Transportation Committee is a cross-section of 24 elected officials, transportation and engineering experts, business leaders and citizens who will make a preliminary report to the General Assembly by next May and a final report by the end of next year.

“North Carolina’s strong economy has resulted in rapid growth that has strained our transportation system. It is my hope that this committee will thoroughly examine our needs both in rural and urban areas and propose innovative solutions. An objective study with input from many points of view is the best way to build a consensus and address our needs,” Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight said in a statement.

"There is no doubt this state has transportation needs, but before we can approach those needs in a comprehensive way we need to better understand what they are. A careful, independent analysis will allow us to make sure we are moving ahead efficiently and spending taxpayer money in the best way possible," House Speaker Joe Hackney said in the statement.

The committee will study the following issues:

  • Ways to improve North Carolina's transportation systems to promote economic growth and ensure that the state can compete and participate in the global economy.
  • Innovative methods to fund transportation needs, including an examination of traditional and nontraditional methods of financing transportation infrastructure.
  • Priorities of the state Department of Transportation, including methods to ensure adequate funding for corridors and projects of statewide significance.
  • Methods to use new and innovative technology to improve the transportation system.
  • Options for local transportation funding.
  • Ways to adequately fund road construction to address urban congestion and improve mobility.
  • Methods to spend transportation funds in the most effective and cost efficient manner, including ways to use recycled materials and reuse and recycle road materials.
  • Ways to ensure the continued safety of the current transportation system, including an analysis of the safety and reliability of bridges.
  • The appropriate division of responsibility for transportation infrastructure between state and local governments and any federal role in providing transportation infrastructure needs.
  • The role of ports, airports, mass transit, rail and pedestrian and cycling access in providing transportation needs.
  • Public transportation needs in urban areas.
  • Methods to encourage fuel conservation and energy conservation in North Carolina.

The committee will be chaired by Brad Wilson, 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.

Other committee members include Stephen Zelnak Jr., chief executive of Martin Marietta Materials Inc. in Raleigh; Nina Szlosberg,  owner of Napro Communications in Raleigh and a member of the state Board of Transportation; former state Rep. George W. Miller Jr. of Durham; former state Transportation Secretary Sam Hunt of Alamance County; state Sens. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, Clark Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, and David Hoyle, D-Gaston; and state Reps. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, Lorene Coates, D-Rowan, Phillip Frye, R-Mitchell, William C. "Bill" McGee, R-Forsyth, and William L. Wainwright, D-Craven.

Also, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy; Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines; Gregory Plemmons, vice president of Old Dominion Global in Thomasville; Charles F. Bowman, principal compliance executive for Bank of America;  Henderson County Commissioner Chuck McGrady; D. Jordan "Jordy" Whichard III, publisher of Cox NC Publications in Greenville and chairman of the North Carolina Economic Development Board; Joseph Monroe, dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University; Lanny Wilson, a member of the state Board of Transportation from New Hanover County; Billy Sewell, president of Platinum Corral in Onslow County; and Ashe County Commissioner Richard Blackburn.

Transportation advocacy group NC Go! said in a statement Monday that appointed the committee is a good first step, but noted the panel and the General Assembly need to produce results to reduce the congestion and improve the eroding infrastructure that plagues many state highways.

"Unlike other recent transportation study commissions, this one must deliver results. The commission members, the General Assembly and leaders from across the state should fully engage in this issue and commit to following through with action. The public will have little patience for the job to be left incomplete," the statement said.