Local News

DOT chief: Gas tax doesn't work

Posted January 30, 2009 6:21 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Newly appointed North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti says his greatest challenge will be dealing with the current financial crisis at the state agency, which in recent months has been forced to postpone more than 75 percent of its planned projects.

The much needed federal stimulus package will get people to work on projects that are long overdue, he said.

The department has also been dogged by perceptions of patronage and inefficiency. An outside consultant issued a scathing report in 2007 that said the agency lacks priorities and accountability, resulting in project delays and low employee morale.

Conti said his mission is to put systems in place to prevent mistakes – like the $20 million repaving of Interstate 40 and recent paving problems on Interstate 795 that could cost the state up to $22 million.

“When we do make mistakes, we’ll be very direct and forthright with the public about what happened, why it happened, who is responsible, whether there’s any action that needs to be taken to hold people accountable for what they’ve done,” Conti told WRAL News on Friday.

Conti also said that relying on the gas tax simply does not work. In the long term, he said, he sees North Carolina adopting a fee that charges drivers based on how many miles they travel.

Gov. Beverly Perdue appointed Conti to the position earlier this month. He was the regional manager of PBS&J, an infrastructure planning, engineering and construction management firm.

He also served as vice chairman of the Global TransPark's Board of Directors, previously was the DOT's chief deputy secretary and assistant secretary for transportation policy with the U.S. Department of Transportation.