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Robbing 14 Peters to pay one Paul

Bruce Siceloff blogs about the tug of war between the Legislature and Gov. Easley regarding who's going to pay for the repaving of I-40 in south Durham (and, presumably, something to this effect will be in tomorrow's N&O):

Gov. Mike Easley's proposed budget would have let his DOT pay for its colossal blunders on I-40 in Durham County -- a 10-mile paving mistake that prompted a $21.7 million repair job, scheduled to clog traffic on nights and some weekends for the rest of 2007 and into spring 2008 -- by reducing its spending plans for other Triangle highway projects.

The House and now the Senate have a different idea: Take that pain to DOT statewide.

The Senate spending plan released today would cut $11.7 million from DOT administrative budgets for all divisions statewide this year and another $10 million next year, to finance the I-40 fix. (The House version released a few weeks ago proposed to take the entire sume [sic] from this year's DOT allocation.)

Triangle leaders have protested DOT's proposal to count its mistakes -- did we mention colossal blunders already? -- as a mere cost overrun on an I-40 widening project. Cost overruns are paid for out of funds earmarked for other local highway jobs.

If I'm the legislature, I'd probably go even further and spread the cost out over 3 or 4 years, just to make sure that statewide projects are impacted as little as possible. But it's a good reason whatsoever that District 5 should be forced to pay for the same road twice, and while it sucks that the state has to pay for it twice at all, this is the fairest way out of a sticky situation.

Bruce also has a nugget about the proposed financing of the western soon-to-be-tolled extension of I-540:

Like Easley, like the House, the Senate is silent on the NC Turnpike Authority's request for $18 million per year to cover the projected gap between toll revenues and the cost of building the 18-mile Triangle Expressway in western Wake and Research Triangle Park.

Maybe they won't be able to start work on the state's first modern toll road this year, after all.

No big deal if they don't start it this year; that would be fast even by the most optimistic projections. But you'd have to think that at some point, someone on Jones Street would wake up to the fact that the Turnpike Authority can't pay for roads based on to-this-point nonexistent tolls and their good looks, and that the legislature needs to step in, even if it's to play bank and loan money to the Turnpike Authority.


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