Skip to main content

Let the debate begin! 21st Century Transport Committee releases their findings

As you all well and know, earlier this week, Governor Mike Easley announced his own plan for improving road financing within the state of North Carolina. And as we predicted (and Bob made note of in the comments), the Governor's 21st Century Transportation Committee came up with their own suggestions.

Story: Raleigh News & Observer

There was a plethora of items within the Committee's conclusions, but since the governor specifically targeted the annual transfer of $172.6 million from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund, lets look at the differences there first.

Gov. Easley suggested that the transfer be reduced by $25 million this year and eventually be eliminated completely. (He didn't give a timetable for how long that would take.) The $25 million would then be applied for the necessary gap funding for the proposed Triangle Expressway Toll Road. (Which needs about $22-25 million per year for 40 years to cover the cost of building the highway.)

I pointed out how that would most certainly differ from the committee's findings (which hinted at the total elimination of the transfer), and that other parts of the state would question why a Raleigh project would be favorited over theirs.

Well, the Committee's proposal for the Highway Fund transfer is as follows:
  1. It would completely eliminate the transfer
  2. $75 million of the gained funs would be used for 'gap financing' for the Triangle Expressway and three other toll projects within the state
  3. The balance of the money would be used to retire nearly $800 million in debt from a bond issue ($1 billion) the committee also suggested.
Now, obviously the differences between the two are pretty stark. All at once, vs. a vague piecemeal proposal. Four total toll projects would receive 'gap funding' vs.only the Triangle Expressway.

Of course, any of these suggestions would have to be passed by the Legislature before moving forward. And I am sure various members of the NC House and Senate have their own ideas on this as well.

But the Committee's report was not limited to eliminating the Highway Trust Fund transfer. It included the previously mentioned bond referendum. The referendum proposed at $1 billion could be on the ballot as early as this fall. (again if it gets the ok from the legislature...there's always the fine print remember) The committee made one point of caution. The bond issue should not be a small amount to where it has very little impact in improving or moving the state's highway infrastructure forward.

The report also recommended that legislation be made that would allow counties to issue half-cent sales tax increases and small vehicle registration fees to pay for various transit measures (similar to what passed in Mecklenburg County). The tax and fee increases would have to be approved by county commissioners to be on the ballot and ultimately by county voters in an election.

It also suggested a new trust fund for congestion relief and transit projects. The $160 million per year fund would go towards bus and light/commuter rail projects.

The committee's report was not unanimous as a few members objected to the lack committed money to transit projects.

Final Commentary:

So there you have it...another proposal to fix and fund our transportation issues. The NC Legislature now has the ball in their court, and who knows what the final solution will look like after it goes through their 'R&D' process (I tried to make the term 'bureaucratic process' sound a little different.) Will the various 'gap funding' proposals not make the grade like it did last year? Or will something come out of it? We'll blog about it...and so will others. So stay tuned.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Relief Route That Wasn't: The Never Built I-70 Bypass in the Mid-Mon Valley

In June 1963, a small blurb in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read that The Westmoreland Engineering Company was awarded a $24,060 bid to study the proposed construction of Interstate 70 in Westmoreland and Washington Counties.  The study was to see what the construction and right-of-way costs "...to modernize the existing highway to Interstate requirements within eight months." (1)  This small, non-attributed, three paragraph article came less than a decade after the completion of a four lane highway that linked the Mid-Mon Valley to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This would be the start of a 15 year process to upgrade and improve Interstate 70 - a process that ultimately never produced a single foot of new highway.

This is the story, albeit brief, of the I-70 that never came about.

Background:
What is now known as Interstate70 from Washington to New Stanton began as a connecting highway for the region to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Known as the "Express Highway", construct…

The Many Failed Plans of Pittsburgh's Wabash Bridge and Tunnel

The December 27, 2004 opening of the Wabash Tunnel ended over 70 years of proposals and speculation for the use of the over 100 year old facility.  The tunnel, which is now a reversible roadway that is an alternative route for rush hour traffic, saw many failed plans during the 20th Century.  These plans included options for mass transit, converted and new bridges for vehicles, and other forms of transportation.

Brief History:
Constructed in 1902-04, the Wabash Bridge and Tunnel was planned and financed by rail mogul, Jay Gould.  Gould began his "Battle of the Wabash" with the established railroads of the city in 1890.  He would finally emerge victorious, but during that struggle, Gould would see many setbacks that would eventually result in the railroad's bankruptcy in 1908.  On October 19, 1903, when the two ends of the bridge were to be joined together over the Monongahela River, the 109' bridge collapsed; killing ten men.  Construction would resume four days later …

A look at Pittsburgh's Saw Mill Run Boulevard

Saw Mill Run Boulevard - Pennsylvania State Route 51 - runs through the narrow Saw Mill Run Valley.  It begins at the intersection of Clairton Road and Provost Road at the City of Pittsburgh Line with Brentwood.  It ends at the West End Circle at the entrance to the West End Bridge.  A four lane highway for its the entire length, Saw Mill Run Boulevard consists of interchanges at the South Portal of the Liberty Tubes and with the Parkway West.  It is an expressway from the Parkway to the West End Circle (West End Bypass).  One of the most well known traffic tie-ups in the Pittsburgh area occurs between Maytide Street and PA 88 (Library Road) which is simply known as 'Maytide and 88.'

History:
Saw Mill Run Boulevard was part of the 1928 Allegheny County 'City Beautiful' bond issue.  The bonds resulted in the creation of Saw Mill Run, Ohio River, Allegheny River and Mosside Boulevards. (1)   After the completion of the Liberty Tunnels in 1924, Downtown Pittsburgh was offic…