Here are some possible things NC can do to continue building roads WITHOUT tolls:
- Stop raiding the Highway Trust Fund: The NC Legislature raided the Highway Trust Fund for over $170 million dollars and put it into the General Fund this year alone. Shortly after that raid, a General Fund surplus of $1.2 billion was announced… and there is no money for roads in NC? In early July the NC budget surplus was estimated to be over $1.4 billion.
- STOP the NC “equity plan”: The rural Legislators of NC are taking money away from urban growth areas. End the equity plan and distribute funds where they belong, based on needs for growth. Rural counties have immaculate 4 lanes highways where there are more cows than people per square mile. This is a useless distribution of funds and stunts urban growth. Even US Senator Dole is pressing Lyndo Tippet on the equity plan.
- Double all traffic fines and penalties and put that money towards roads: This idea comes from our neighbor to the north, Virginia. VA raised fines for speeding, DUI, etc. by a large amount and put that money towards roads. When No Tolls on 540 originally posed this idea to the NC Legislature prior to the end of their session, Rep. Nelson Cole responded by saying, “This would not be possible in NC because the constitution dictates that all fines and penalties go to education.” If it is law, the NC Legislature has the power to change it. We propose you double all traffic fines and penalties. This way, education keeps getting the money originally promised, 50% of the new money if fines and penalties are doubled AND roads earn funding as well with the remaining 50%. Yes, the NC Legislature can change the law because they amended Senate Bill 1381 (take note of SECTION 3) in favor of an organization they helped to create (the NCTA) to allow tolling on an already existing road, the stretch called NC-540. Prior to this change of the law, NC law did not allow for tolling on an already existing road. This new 5 mile section of NC-540 was paid for by your tax dollars and federal funds.
Interestingly enough, the NCTA has a list of “key restrictions” they must follow in order to build toll roads. The first one listed is “No tolls on existing roads” as seen on slide 2 of this presentation. The same statement can be found in many other NCTA presentations.
- Raise the gas tax, but just a little: Yes, we already have some of the highest gas taxes in the USA, but, we also rank #2 for most miles of State maintained roads. If you raise the gas tax just a tiny amount (it needs to keep up with inflation), more money will be available for roads. Why do this? The infrastructure within the State of NC is *already in place* to process and handle this change to put the money where it belongs, for building roads free from tolls. If we allow the NCTA to build toll roads, we have to not only start paying tolls to use the roads they build, but we have to find ways to fund upstart, build the infrastructure from scratch and maintain that infrastructure. This includes toll facility building, upkeep and demolition when said tolls are removed, and employee salaries and benefits. We don’t need the NCTA to be yet another government run, politically minded monster organization in NC. We do not need toll roads.
- Audit and Overhaul the NCDOT: I bet we got your attention with this one. As NC was once known as the “Good Road State”, the NCDOT is our prized state run organization. However, the NCDOT has become such a large beast so buried in politics, it can’t manage getting simple road projects completely correctly. This is what the NCDOT does, build roads. They have been doing it for a long time. Why then do we continue to see costly mistakes? Recently the I-40 widening between NC-147 and 15/501 became a $20+ million disaster. The NCDOT is technically the organization that opened the latest stretch of the 540 loop, the 5 miles currently called NC-540 only to remove an exit lane from 540 to I-40. Traffic problems were not solved and bad traffic jams still occur daily. It will now cost more of the NCDOT’s time and money to correct this mistake. How many more costly mistakes can we live with? We call for an audit and overhaul of the NCDOT organization to make it more streamlined and efficient, saving tax-payers money for more road projects, such as continuing to build and complete the 540 loop as well as other loops promised to cities like Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, Wilmington, etc.
- Impose an Impact Tax on developers: This will make developers who want to build in our fast paced growth market put in contributions to help build schools, water, sewer, jails, parks, fire stations and other public facilities. With this additional money spent by the developers, more money will be available to the State to provide better Interstates and loops, such as 540. NC Policy Watch has more information on this topic.
- Pressure the Federal Highway Administration to own up to its promise: NC is a donor state. For every dollar NC puts towards the Federal Highway program, $0.92 is promised back in return. A presentation by the NCTA, slide 17, shows we are only getting $0.88 back, and we’ve heard rumors of less than that actually coming back. The Federal Highway Administration should be held to its promise.