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Who'd have thought roads would cost so much to build?

A "Eureka!" moment from NC Turnpike Authority director David Gibson as recounted in Bruce Siceloff's column this morning in the N&O:

Joyner blames soaring land costs for the local turnpike gap. The cost of buying right-of-way for the Triangle Expressway, originally planned as a toll-free part of Raleigh's Outer Loop, was pegged at $52 million in 2002 and at $135 million in 2006, he said.

This year, after he saw the rising prices school officials were paying for western Wake real estate, Joyner asked appraisers and surveyors to update his right-of-way budget for the Triangle Expressway.

The new numbers arrived in his Glenwood Avenue office Friday: $233 million, a $98 million increase in the past year, to buy 732 acres not yet purchased by DOT or pledged by RTP's landlord, the Research Triangle Foundation.

The estimate works out to about $225,000 an acre in average land values -- with 40 percent added for likely condemnation settlement, court and other costs.

Joyner did the math on his adding machine and gasped: In all, he would have to budget more than $300,000 an acre. He doubted the results, called his chief financial officer to his desk, punched the numbers again and finally accepted the answer.


The gap in question is the funding that neither chamber of the Legislature has approved to up-front the construction of the tolled part of 540 that I mentioned last week. The House rejected the Senate's budget last night, which means the two chambers will go into negotiations that conceivably could result in funding being allocated, but since it was in neither budget to begin with, those chances are pretty slim.

I have news for Mr. Joyner: you're not building this freeway, or turnpike, or whatever-it-winds-up-as through virgin forests and untouched pristine fields. You're building it through the fastest-growing area of Wake County. Things tend to get a bit expensive under such circumstances. You mean to tell me that no right-of-way acquisition studies were completed until he picked up the newspaper one day and realized that developers (gasp!) were spending Benjamins like candy on Halloween to build in that part of the county? Well no kidding it's gonna be expensive! That comes with the territory, now doesn't it?

Between this, the I-40 Pavement Debacle, the Highway Trust Fund shenanigans, and God knows what other brilliant ideas transportation planners come up with in this state, it's a wonder any roads get built.

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