Local Taxes, Fees Might Accelerate Road Building

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A local tax might be imposed to pay for highway improvements that the state cannot fund.

The state Department of Transportation has included no new road projects for Raleigh in its seven-year roads plan, and it has pushed others on the list back beyond 2013.

"Raleigh and Wake County did very poorly in the state's proposed transportation plan," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "It certainly makes me mad, and it ought to make all the commuters in the Triangle area upset. The DOT's current funding formula just isn't fair. It takes money away from us, despite the fact that we're having all this growth."

For example, the Western Wake Expressway leg of Interstate 540 was completely dropped from the state's proposed funding list. Officials are considering that stretch of highway for North Carolina's first toll road.

Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said the state has too many roads that need to be built, expanded or maintained and not enough money to do them all.

"The mayor is wrong on Raleigh and Wake County not getting a fair shake," Tippett said. "We simply don't have enough money to address the needs of all communities in the state, and Raleigh is just one of them. If we had zillions of dollars, we could spend much of it right here in Raleigh."

To lessen the funding gap, local leaders have discussed various ways to pay for area road improvements aside from toll roads.

"There's been discussion, which I think is worthwhile, about having a gas tax or increasing vehicle registration fees for Raleigh, Wake County or the Triangle to get some of these projects going," Meeker said, adding that a local sales tax is also under consideration.

The General Assembly would have to approve a local sales tax before it could take effect, but Tippett said the idea has worked elsewhere.

"Charlotte has had a half-cent sales tax to fund transit for several years. I will tell you that that concept will spread across the state in the near future," he said.


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