Senate shuns Perdue plea for road fund

Budget doesn't mention it

Staff WriterMay 23, 2010 

Last week, the state Senate quietly ignored Gov. Bev Perdue's $94.6 million proposal to establish a fund that would help fix the Yadkin River bridge on Interstate 85 now - and tackle other big statewide transportation problems later.

The $19 billion budget approved by the Senate last week had no mention of Perdue's proposed N.C. Mobility Fund or of the fee increases and revenue transfers she would use to pay for it.

Advocates for urban needs and for transportation improvements said they would lobby the House to reinstate Perdue's plan when it adopts its version of the 2011 budget.

She had proposed to divert $22 million this year, and more in future years, from the dwindling yearly transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund. And she wanted to produce another $74.6 million a year in new revenue by raising some motor vehicle fees - mostly by increasing the annual car registration fee from $28 to $35.

Perdue hoped over the next several years to build a yearly appropriation of about $300 million for statewide transportation projects. But it was not clear who would decide how the money was to be spent.

After the federal government turned down North Carolina's $300 million request for stimulus funds to replace the narrow, outdated Yadkin bridge on I-85 at Salisbury, the state Department of Transportation said it would find other money to start work this year on a wider bridge.

But DOT still needed about $150 million to widen six miles of I-85 near the bridge. Perdue said that would be the first use of her proposed Mobility Fund.

Administration officials later said they also would earmark $30 million a year for interstate highway maintenance across the state and $20 million to augment Powell Bill funds that are distributed to towns and cities for local streets and sidewalks.

Julie White, director of the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, urged local leaders last week to drum up support for Perdue's Mobility Fund in the House.

"Show members of the General Assembly that cities have confidence in NCDOT to build a prioritization process that will ensure the funds are spent on mobility projects of statewide significance," White said Thursday in an e-mail to city officials.

bruce.siceloff@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4527

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