An appointed committee in North Carolina wants state lawmakers to consider tolling interstate highways and implementing a mileage-based tax to replace the state fuel tax.
The North Carolina 21st Century Transportation Committee, appointed by the state General Assembly, submitted a final report to lawmakers in December containing several recommendations for funding transportation and infrastructure.
Lawmakers will consider the recommendations over the course of the legislative session, which begins Jan. 28.
The state faces a number of challenges including an aging infrastructure and a growing population. From 1990 to 2005, the state population grew 30 percent and vehicle miles traveled increased by 40 percent.
North Carolina has more than 2,500 bridges deemed to be structurally deficient. The state currently ranks 49th in total revenue generated per lane mile.
“The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that to meet current needs and to prepare North Carolina for 2030, an estimated additional investment of over $65 billion is required to plan, design, build and maintain all aspects of our transportation systems,” committee members stated in the final report.
Recommendations for generating revenue include:
- Tolling Interstate 95 border to border to pay for widening; tolling Interstate 77 from South Carolina to Interstate 40 in Statesville, NC, to pay for widening; and tolling all interstate highways at state borders;
- Implementing a tax on vehicle miles traveled as a supplement or alternative to the fuel tax;
- Indexing all fixed user fees to inflation;
- Eliminating transfers from the state Highway Trust Fund to the general fund, including State Highway Patrol funding;
- Increasing vehicle registration fees;
- Increasing the Highway Use Tax to 4 percent from 3 percent;
- Accelerating the state’s bond program to build critical infrastructure; and,
- Authorizing local governments to implement a sales tax of 1 percent for transportation.
Spending that money should be based on strict priorities and using a “fix it first” policy, committee members said.
Committee members are advocating congestion relief, a $300-million annual bridge program, and an increased use of rail for passengers and freight.
– By David Tanner, staff writer