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Audit of DOT Suggests Postponing Road Projects

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RALEIGH — More than $400 million in state road projects scheduled for this year should be postponed, according to a performance audit of the state Transportation Department released Monday.

The audit also said that the current Transportation Improvement Program, which covers fiscal 1998 through 2004, includes projects that would require 26 years of funding at current levels and would cost $21.2 billion.

In addition, the TIP contains more than $6 billion in identified future needs projects for which there's no funding, state Auditor Ralph Campbell said. Auditors projected a shortfall of more than $2 billion for the 2,281 projects in the TIP.

``The second major finding is that North Carolina is building new roads at the expense of its existing infrastructure,'' Campbell said in a news release. `` ... Estimates are that pavement resurfacing alone is underfunded by approximately $95 million a year.''

The third major finding was a lack of vision and focus in the state's transportation efforts.

``While the department has established procedures for obtaining local input into transportation decisions, neither the department nor the board has consistently used this input in making decisions,'' Campbell said. ``Rather, decisions have been made at the top, regarding everything from urban loops to secondary roads for remote areas.''

The auditor said Transportation Secretary Norris Tolson has reviewed the report and agrees with some of the recommendations.

Campbell's audit is just one investigation of the Transportation Department. The FBI launched a criminal investigation earlier this year following months of news reports about ethical conflicts and decision-making driven by political considerations in the department.

And legislators have proposed replacing the state Board of Transportation with one that's smaller and less politically connected.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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