I recently came across this blog post from The Council of State Governments’ “Knowledge Center” blog. The post forecasts the 2013 transportation funding challenges and priorities in 20 different states, North Carolina included. Here’s what the post had to say about what might be expected once former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) becomes our governor in January:
The Associated Press recently looked at where incoming Gov. Pat McCrory (the longtime Charlotte Mayor) stands on transportation issues: “Don’t punish cities that must spend lots of money improving interstates, he says. Develop decades-long construction plans. Keep politics out of funding road projects and work with the private sector. And don’t be afraid to try something risky, like the Republican did in 1998 by lobbying for a referendum by voters that raised the local sales tax to help build Charlotte’s first light rail line.” Transportation advocates in the state are reportedly encouraged that the governor-elect, who championed transportation’s ability to improve the economy as Mayor of Charlotte, could endorse more sustainable transportation revenue sources and win support from legislators. But, as a Business Journal article pointed out earlier this fall, North Carolina’s gas tax is already among the highest in the nation and while the state has turned to tolling to help finance some projects, they have faced challenges with a couple of toll road projects.
- Image by Jeroen van Oostrom via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Voters in Raleigh yesterday overwhelmingly supported a $40 million bond referendum to finance various transportation improvements in the City of Oaks, including road repaving, upgraded bus stops, renovations to Moore Square and a new Amtrack station. The package withstood opposition from Americans for Prosperity, which cited a long-term debt concern as a reason to stymie the new spending. It appears that over 67% of those who went to the polls yesterday thought immediate infrastructure investment was a higher priority than fiscal austerity. Coverage from today’s News & Observer can be found here.
Creative carpool-lane scofflaws, like this artiste from New York, might soon be able to retire their mannequins, at least in the Charlotte area. As reported in today’s Charlotte Observer, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti informed the Charlotte City Council on Monday that a contractor could be selected to convert high-occupancy vehicle (“HOV”) lanes to high-occupancy toll (“HOT”) lanes on I-77 as soon as this time next year. Once the conversion is complete, high-occupancy vehicles would be authorized to use the HOT lanes without charge, but solo motorists trying to shorten their morning and evening commutes would have to pay a toll via electronic transponder.
Image by CountyLemonade via Creative Commons license
The project could cost upwards of $200 million, but it wasn’t the price tag that caught my eye. Rather, I’m interested in the possibility that the conversion could be financed through a public-private partnership. A number of other states have either utilized or are considering utilizing “PPP’s” in developing HOT lanes. In fact, Georgia appears primed to build new toll lanes alongside I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties through a PPP, at a price tag over $1 billion.
Which got me to thinking:
- What are the potential legal issues that must be considered before the NCDOT engages in a PPP for an HOT?
- What are the public policy considerations?
- Might the politics of developing so-called “Lexus Lanes” be too HOT to handle?
I hope to give these questions some additional thought in the days ahead and provide some additional insights in a subsequent blog post.
A delegation of mayors work to conquer the Hill in seeking over $125B in new infrastructure investment; see details in the attached link.