Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal to borrow more than $1 billion for transportation improvements is focused on getting money for mostly rural projects that would be ready to start construction within the next year or two, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata says.
Meanwhile, state Treasurer Janet Cowell says North Carolina can afford to borrow up to $1.2 billion for transportation infrastructure investments.
Tata issued a statement Friday to flesh out details of a revenue bond issue McCrory proposed during local news conferences in four cities Wednesday. The bonds were mentioned in McCrory’s discussion of his long-range priorities for transportation investments.
“A key element of the governor’s 25-year vision is recognition that transportation systems can stimulate the economy by building infrastructure to attract business and create or provide access to jobs,” Tata said in a statement released to The News & Observer. “Accordingly, we are looking at projects that will help connect rural areas to jobs, healthcare, and education centers. A transportation bond will help us address critical needs with our limited funds, especially in rural areas.”
DOT compiled a draft list of 21 projects, worth a combined $1.49 billion, identified as potential candidates for bond money – “including more projects than we could fund,” Tata said.
The state might borrow a little over $1 billion to pay for some of the projects, and several projects might ultimately be funded instead through the state’s Strategic Transportation Investments program, he said.
The list includes mostly rural projects, along with urban loops in Fayetteville ($186.4 million) and Winston-Salem ($266.5 million). Tata said the two loops and a U.S. 74 Shelby bypass ($179.7 million) probably will be partially funded through the Strategic Transportation Investments program, and the bond money would be used to complete them.
Cowell agreed that the state needs to address its transportation infrastructure needs. She chairs the state’s Debt Affordability Advisory Committee, which concluded in its 2014 report that North Carolina has more than $1.2 billion in debt capacity for transportation projects through 2017.
“There are various options available to finance infrastructure projects, however we must choose a fiscally sound approach that does not endanger the state’s AAA bond rating,” Cowell said Thursday in a news release. “I look forward to getting more details on this proposal.”