Charlotte Receives Unexpected $10M for Road Improvements

Thu July 08, 2004 - Southeast Edition

CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) People who travel highways through Charlotte may have won a surprise $10 million.

That’s the money the state hopes to spend to repair and resurface cracked and rutted portions of interstates 77, 85 and 277.

Because of a lack in cash, state engineers were years away from making those repairs. But North Carolina also was about to lose a big pot of federal dollars if it didn’t spend it.

The state Board of Transportation is expected to approve the work early this month. Repairs could start as soon as October or November, said Benton Payne, the chief engineer of the North Carolina Department of Transportation division that includes Charlotte.

The federal money originally was to be spent on freeways outside the Charlotte area. But the state risked losing that money because the necessary construction contracts could not be awarded to meet an Oct. 1 deadline.

When Payne said he could get the work done quickly, the state offered the money to Charlotte. “We will work day and night to get that money,” Payne said. “This is a nice windfall.”

But the state limits how much road money can be spent in each part of the state, so Charlotte’s $10 million is more of an advance than a gift.

At the end of the year, that amount must be subtracted from the money the state expected to spend in the area. No Charlotte highway projects will be delayed, Payne said, because some were behind schedule.