Local News

Easley's Plan To Fix Roads Draws Response From Both Sides

Posted February 20, 2003 4:18 a.m. EST

— Gov. Mike Easley's plan to borrow $700 million to fix the roads has drawn both praise and criticism.

Most legislators give Easley a thumbs-up for wanting to use highway trust fund money to fix the state's crumbling roads.

But Light Rail and Mass Transit has at least two Republican lawmakers waving the caution flag.

Patrick Ballantine, the Senate's top Republican, claims the money will come from highway bonds that voters approved in 1996.

"We don't believe that the voters voted on mass transit and light rail," Ballantine said. "And to take that money out of the bonds money approved by the voters and do something different, that is really a breach of trust."

Raleigh's Russell Capps said he objects to light rail.

"That's a bad part of the bill," Capps said, "and we don't need to be putting any more money into the light rail.

"It will not accomplish any of the purpose that they say it will. Every light rail in the country has failed."

While lawmakers argue over the merits of light rail and mass transit - some insiders say the state must consider these transportation options or lose huge chunks of federal matching funds.

The Easley plan would boost public transit money by 25 percent. That would help pay the state's share of regional rail systems in the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte.