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North Carolina Group Files Transportation Needs Report

Wed January 18, 2006 - Southeast Edition
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RALEIGH, NC (AP) North Carolina’s transportation needs are outpacing the growth of its population, but new revenue sources could help narrow that gap, a legislative commission’s report says.

The Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Solutions to North Carolina’s Urban Transportation Needs spent 21 months studying the situation across the state before issuing its final report Dec. 6. State DOT planners have said the state faces a shortfall of nearly $30 billion in transportation funding over the next 25 years.

“This is to give the General Assembly a basis, an understanding, of what we need to do,” said Rep. Drew Saunders, D-Mecklenburg, commission chairman.

The panel, comprised of legislators, city and business leaders and transportation planners, recommended suspending annual transfers from the state Highway Trust Fund to the general operating fund for non-transportation needs. Lawmakers took $252 million from the fund in this year’s budget.

The state also should increase the use of toll roads and give local governments the power to assess taxes or fees for transportation projects.

Some suggestions in the report are already being followed. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority is considering as many as nine toll projects. And the General Assembly gave the state the authority to issue a special kind of bond that permits the state to borrow money against expected future federal highway dollars.

The commission also recommended the Legislature examine how highway money is allocated, which some contend doesn’t meet the needs of urban areas. A separate highway maintenance fund also should be created for repairs on existing urban highways, including interstate loops, the panel said.

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