Asphalt contains a petroleum product, so as crude oil prices rise, asphalt gets more expensive. If the price continues to climb, the state may have to delay some road construction projects.
"The increased cost, because of the increased price of asphalt cement this year, would be about $20 million more than what we paid for a comparable amount last year, so it'll be an impact," says state construction engineer Steve DeWitt.
Asphalt prices have increased 45 percent in just the last 45 days. Add to that the increase in diesel fuel prices required to run all this equipment, and road building is getting very expensive.
TheDOTbudget has already taken huge hits from Hurricane Floyd and the big snowstorm. As a result, the rising price of asphalt will not stop any projects already under construction, but it could affect projects that are still on the drawing board.
"We can't possibly do all the things that the public expects -- and rightly so -- expects us to do on our roads across North Carolina. And this is just one more factor that's taking away money -- crucial money -- from these maintenance activities," DeWitt says.
DOT engineers say if crude oil prices continue to rise, they may have to ask theGeneral Assemblyfor more road building funds.