Toll road funding sought in North Carolina

| 6/9/2008

A renewed effort in the North Carolina Senate would set aside extra money to help pay for toll roads throughout the state.

The General Assembly adjourned their 2007 regular session without reaching agreement on a plan to require most drivers in the state to pay $8 more per year for their vehicle registration stickers. The money would be used to leverage revenue bonds for toll road projects.

The bill – SB1352 – has been brought back for consideration during the regular session that opened last month. It is in the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee.

A year ago, House lawmakers balked at a Senate-approved plan that would have required most drivers to pay $8 more per year for their vehicle registration stickers. The increase would have added $30 million this fiscal year for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. The added funds would have reached $52 million annually each of the next four fiscal years.

Instead, the House voted on the final work day of the year for a version of the bill that would give the Turnpike Authority $20 million, but the Senate never considered it. With the continuation of the state’s two-year session, the effort is expected to draw consideration once again.

The added revenue would be a shot in the arm for advocates of toll roads in the state. It is estimated to cost about $50 million per mile to build an interstate, reported the News & Record in Greensboro, NC.

The turnpike authority has its eye on several projects throughout the state. From that list, the project most likely to be completed first is a proposed toll road in western Wake County.

Supporters of the bill say something needs to be done because the cost of building roads has soared in recent years. They cite soaring costs for construction materials, including asphalt.

Opponents of the fee increase say before reaching deeper into the pockets of taxpayers the state would be better served to stop the practice of dipping into the highway trust fund and rerouting money generated from fuel taxes to other budgets.

To view other legislative activities of interest for North Carolina in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor