Transportation projects face uncertain future under funding proposal

RALEIGH — Some big transportation projects faced an uncertain future under a proposal to revamp the transportation system in North Carolina.

But some changes made on Thursday put some of the projects back to the priority list.
Gov. Pat McCrory is leading the charge to change the way North Carolina decides which road and other transportation projects are funded.

The proposal breaks down dollars into state, regional and local projects with data deciding which projects are priorities in many cases.

But some projects that were already under review and preparation are no longer guaranteed funding. Under the bill as it was proposed, the Triangle Expressway and Monroe Connector would go on as scheduled because they have already been bonded out.

But the Garden Parkway, the Cape Fear Skyway, and Mid-Currituck Bridge — which have millions of dollars in study and investment — would be put back in the pool to be determined if they advance under the proposed new funding scheme.

For some legislators who represent those regions, they said they are not prepared to allow for the possibility of those projects to slip away.

“We are asking to undo these projects right at the finish line and leave them up to a process that we won’t find out until after the vote, “ said Rep. Paul Tine, D-Dare, “which is reminiscent of what we have criticized the federal government of.”

By guaranteeing these projects, the department of transportation said funding from its new formula would be affected in a big way: $252 million from the statewide program, $252 million from regional funding, and $9 million from each of the local regions.

“Let’s don’t hobble the plan by saying let’s do the plan but everybody that’s got a project is going to say we’re still going to do the plan, but legislate my project,” said Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell.

The bill sponsor said with the costs associated with the change, the bill could be in trouble.

But the committee voted to give the projects the green light anyway. The bill heads to the main money committee in the House next.

The bill’s sponsor said he will work to get the Garden Parkway, Mid-Currituck Bridge, and the Cape Fear Sky way projects taken back out of the bill in that committee.

– Loretta Boniti

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be nominated to US Secretary of Transportation

CHARLOTTE – President Barack Obama will nominate Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the new Secretary of Transportation, to succeed outgoing secretary Ray LaHood. The announcement is expected Monday.

News of the appointment brings to an end weeks of speculation about Foxx’s future. Foxx announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t seek another term as mayor, and as recently as Friday, the mayor playfully brushed off questions about the Washington job when asked by reporters.

Foxx’s name surfaced early as a possibility for the job after Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention and because of the mayor’s success in developing Charlotte’s mass transit system, including the city’s street car and light rail.

Transportation secretary is a cabinet-level position, so Foxx will have to make it through Senate confirmation hearings before he can officially take the job.

Foxx is no stranger to Washington. Before becoming mayor, the lawyer served in the civil rights division of the Justice Department and later on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee.

His appointment could also help Obama score some political points. Foxx will be the first African American nominated to the president’s second-term cabinet. Obama had faced harsh criticism from many, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, for the lack of minorities and women in his cabinet.

We’ve already begun to hear from North Carolina lawmakers about Foxx’s appointment. Freshman Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger released a statement saying, “My hope is that Mr. Foxx will prioritize funding for widening and improving major road systems which are used by far more commuters and generate significant economic growth.”

The mayor’s office has not released a statement.

– Michael Scotto

Gov. Pat McCrory on transportation funding

Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti has an extended interview with Gov. Pat McCrory on proposed changes to state transportation funding. Watch the interview here.

McCrory announces transportation funding changes

RALEIGH — If and when transportation projects, from roads to water, will be funded is about to go through a major change.

The state has been using its current funding formula for decades, but Gov. Pat McCrory said it isn’t helping to move the state forward.

The idea is to prioritize project based on data and local input, and to spread the money around more logically and fairly, to increase commerce and jobs.

The current formula would fund 175 projects over the next decade. Under the new proposal, the project list would add 85 projects and create about 60,000 jobs at the same time.

McCrory said making this change just makes sense.

“We’ve got to connect the small towns with the big cities and make sure we can move people, ag product, manufacturing products in order to show employers that we are investing in the future, but that we’re doing it in a strategic way,” McCrory said, “and, frankly, we haven’t been doing it that way for too long a time.”

Legislative leaders were sitting on the stage with McCrory as he made the announcement. They said they are on board with these changes, and said they expect this proposal to start moving soon through the General Assembly.

– Loretta Boniti

Tata on transportation: NC to see ‘innovative’ to funding roads

Transportation Secretary Tony Tata

Transportation Secretary Tony Tata is our featured guest tonight.

But for you lucky Time Warner Cable subscribers we have the entire interview below. We touch on why pink was chosen initially instead of another color for those DACA driver’s licenses. We also talk about how in the world the state is going to fund transportation as the state continues to grow and gas tax revenues continue to tank (pun intended?).

Some cliff notes:

– Expect an “innovative” and very different approach to revenue and road building in North Carolina. Tata said just yesterday he met with Gov. Pat McCrory and talked for an hour and a half about the equity formula and ways to fund transportation. He expects significant conversations in the coming weeks with the governor and General Assembly about these issues in the coming weeks.

– It appears Tata is on board with focusing on need when it comes to the equity formula. Essentially, instead of everyone getting equal chunks of funding, the areas that need it the most will get the most (i.e. urban centers).

– For the time being, he said he doesn’t see the state asking local governments to do more when it comes to transportation.

– Tata appears to support light rail in the Triangle.

It’s all in the video so check it out!

Watch the entire interview here.


State reverses course on pink licenses for undocumented immigrants

RALEIGH – The state has put the brakes on a plan to give pink-striped driver’s licenses to certain illegal immigrants.

In February, Department of Transportation secretary Tony Tata announced North Carolina will issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who were brought into this country illegally as children and are now in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.

However, the state said those new licenses would have distinctive pink markings with a bold label saying “no lawful status.”

Democrats and religious leaders compared the pink striped driver’s license to a scarlet letter, saying it labels the immigrants as second-class people.

On Thursday, officials with the Department of Transportation said the state opted against the special licenses because it makes computer and printing coding easier if the licenses are the same as those for other drivers. But the licenses will still read “no lawful status.”

That marking still doesn’t sit well with some in the community. Several rabbis are banding together with plans to deliver a letter signed by Jewish leaders from across the state to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office.

“These immigrants are children who are not brought here by their own free will,” said Rabbi Eric Solomon. “They have been classified and given a certain status by the president of the United States, and that is not meant to discriminate against them, that is meant in a effort to welcome them.

“We have to raise our voice and say ‘we cannot let this happen, we will not stand by.'”

The DMV will begin issuing the driver’s licenses to DACA recipients Monday.

DOT secretary outlines transportation plan at summit

RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory is calling on Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata to help boost our state’s economy.

On Thursday Tata addressed hundred at the Regional Transportation Alliance Breakfast in Raleigh to outline how a 25-year plan for transportation will keep North Carolina competitive.

As North Carolina continues to grow, plans to drive the state forward are already in place.

Tata outlined a 25-year plan initiated by McCrory to boost economic development with a more efficient transportation system.

“I have business men and women telling me there’s too much congestion on [the highway] and they have to move to Virginia or South Carolina,” said Tata.

Tata said bridging the gaps seen between air, ground, and rail transit would elimiante the roadblocks many companies complain of.

Read more from reporter Linnie Supall here.