More funds sought for North Carolina Turnpike Authority

| 8/2/2007

As the clock ticks down on the regular session in North Carolina, a bill halfway through the statehouse would require drivers to pay about a third more for their vehicle’s annual registration stickers to help fund toll roads throughout the state.

The Senate voted 42-5 Monday, July 30, to approve a bill that would increase the registration fee by $8 on most vehicles. The increase would add $30 million this fiscal year for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. The added funds would reach $52 million annually each of the next four fiscal years.

While the infusion of revenue will help with the cost of road work, it won’t completely foot the bill. It is estimated that it costs about $50 million per mile to build an interstate, the News & Record in Greensboro, NC, reported.

The turnpike authority has its eye on seven projects throughout the state. From that list, the project most likely to be completed first is a section of the Interstate 540 outer loop around Raleigh.

Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gastonia, the bill sponsor, said something needs to be done because the cost of building roads has soared in recent years. He cited soaring costs for construction materials, including asphalt.

Opponents 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.

Others say the turnpike authority shouldn’t get all the revenue from higher registration fees. Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Reidsville, is calling for half of the fee to go to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The bill – SB1352 – has moved to the House for further consideration. It must gain passage there before the regular session wraps up this week.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor