Local News

State DOT in jeopardy of losing federal funding

Posted July 21, 2008 6:54 p.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2011 9:37 a.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Department of Transportation could lose at least a third of its federal funding because of record-high gasoline prices.

The primary funding source for the Federal Highway Trust Fund is a federal gasoline tax. But as motorists cut back on their driving, the federal government is losing about $3.2 billion that should go toward road construction projects.

In North Carolina, DOT officials say the agency could lose around $300 million, less than 10 percent of the DOT's $4 billion budget. About 10,000 industry jobs could be lost statewide.

Nationwide, transportation experts say at least 380,000 jobs and hundreds of construction projects are in jeopardy across the country if Congress fails to rescue the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

"What will happen, in the short-term, is we'll be delaying projects," said Calvin Leggett director of the state DOT's program development. "Ultimately, there will be some that just won't happen."

North Carolina's DOT had planned for that money to be there. State officials admit they are surprised Congress has not address the issue, even though there were plenty of opportunities to do so.

"Obviously, Congress has not seen it as being an immediate issue as we feel it is," Leggett said.

The DOT has not yet gone over which projects might hit a roadblock, he said.

"Road building is a multi-year planning and design process, and making adjustments in short months is difficult," Leggett said.

Congress has until the end of September to rescue America's transportation account. A letter is circulating through the Senate to take immediate action. Among the 60-plus signatures is Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

There has also been discussion in Washington to raise the federal gasoline tax, among several other options, to fund the account.