RALEIGH, N.C. — High gasoline prices and a decrease in car sales are the reasons revenues from the state's gasoline tax and highway usage tax are down a combined total of $66 million from a year ago, the state Department of Transportation reported Wednesday.
Funding from the gas tax revenues is down 1.5 percent, about $24 million; funding from the highway usage tax, which comes from vehicle sales, is down 7 percent, or $42 million, the DOT's chief financial officer, Mark Foster, said.
"This is the first time in several years that our state revenues have not exceeded the prior year," Foster said.
Because both taxes are major sources of revenue for road maintenance and new construction projects, Foster said prioritizing projects is critical.
For example, thousands of the state's bridges have already exceeded their expected lifespan.
"Our average bridge costs $2 million; $60 million is 30 replacement bridges," he said. "That's significant to the state."
The DOT's budget is also taking a hit from inflation, also because of gasoline prices. In the past year, the department has spent 20 percent more on gas, nearly $25 million than the previous year. And that figure is expected to be higher this year.
Construction costs, primarily for asphalt, concrete and steel, is also up 80 percent over the past five years.
"I think the message to drivers and citizens is we will continue to look out for your scarce dollars, but we may be asking for more dollars in the future to make sure your safety is not affected," Foster said.