Transportation measure raises eyebrows

May. 01, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

A new funding model will leave road projects in rural counties, such as Rutherford County, scrambling for less dollars than before.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s new transportation plan is making its way through the North Carolina House and will direct transportation funds to projects with higher impact than those with less traffic counts.

Under the plan, statewide and regional transportation projects will take 80 percent of transportation funding with the remaining 20 percent directed to whatever is left.

It means that the 14 divisions will be splitting less money with larger projects, especially concerning high-traffic areas around the Triangle, Charlotte and coastal areas, getting a bulk of the funding. McCrory said the projects getting the majority of the money will address issues such as congestion, travel time and linking economic centers.

The new plan will divide approximately $12.8 billion — using data — among projects shown to address infrastructure needs. That will leave $3.2 billion to spread around the rest of the state.

That means sectors of western North Carolina will be left in the cold when it comes to transportation projects. Or, at best, scrapping for a few dollars here and there to do the basic upkeep of roadways.

Additionally, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said that the state will redirect $120 million a year from secondary road maintenance to construction projects.

An example of what the McCrory administration has in mind is creating a new interstate between the Research Triangle and Hampton Roads in the northeastern section of the state to open up a new port to use. Rail projects and new state highways could also be bumped up to the top of the list using the new methodology.

Recently, leaders in Rutherford, Polk and Cleveland counties met to discuss creating a new 74 economic corridor with the potential to extend I-74 from the Port of Wilmington to Polk County.

With this proposal going through the General Assembly, one could question where such a project will rank on the new scale.

The answer is that no one knows.

If this new funding model becomes a reality we can only hope that rural counties like Rutherford County aren’t left scrimping on road maintenance and on the wrong side of the door when it comes to broad new transportation projects.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board


The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark