Research group calls for improving NC roads

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comMarch 25, 2014 

— A national research group funded by road builders reckons that Triangle motorists are losing $1,005 apiece every year, simply because North Carolina doesn’t spend enough money to keep our travels safe, smooth and free of congestion.

A 24-page report released Tuesday by The Road Information Program, known as TRIP, calls for more state and federal money to relieve urban traffic jams, replace obsolete bridges and upgrade poor-quality roads.

The report estimates what motorists in each of five urban areas waste on vehicle operating costs, traffic delays and accidents that can be attributed to bad roads. These annual estimates range from $949 in Asheville to $1,513 in Charlotte.

The Triangle estimate of $1,005 could be a sign of progress. A 2010 TRIP study pegged the annual cost to local drivers at $1,350.

Will Wilkins, the Washington-based nonprofit’s executive director, called for action to replenish the dwindling federal Highway Trust Fund.

“Unless Congress acts this year to adequately fund the federal Highway Trust Fund, North Carolina is going to see its federal funding decrease dramatically starting this summer,” Wilkins said in a news release. “This will result in fewer road repair projects, loss of jobs and a burden on the state’s economy.”

Wilkins released the new report at a Raleigh news conference. Representatives of state and Triangle business groups were ready with their endorsements.

“As North Carolina’s population increases, we must invest in the future and continue to grow our economy – sufficient transportation is key,” Jake Cashion, government affairs director for the N.C. Chamber, said in the TRIP news release. “This report underscores the critical nature of meeting the state’s need for safe and efficient mobility, as additional demands are placed on the current transportation system.”

State and federal gas tax collections, which provide the biggest single source of transportation money, are dwindling each year as motorists reduce their fuel consumption. Nick Tennyson, chief deputy secretary for the state Department of Transportation, said DOT is looking for ways to reduce project costs and find new sources of money.

“Across the nation and in our state, we see declining transportation revenue projections,” Tennyson said by email. “At the same time we are focused on leveraging infrastructure to strengthen the economy and create jobs. … Our next step, in the near future, is to address the revenue gap.”

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or newsobserver.com/roadworrierblog Twitter: @Road_Worrier

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