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North Carolina ‘Road Needs’ Add Up to Nearly $70 Billion

“We have $70 billion in road needs and only $11 billion to pay the bill.”

It’s a lament commonly used to justify toll lanes. We heard it at the candidate forum last week, and we’ll probably hear it at the next one tomorrow night. But how did NCDOT come up with that $70 billion figure, and what went into it?

Last month NCDOT released their ranked list of road projects. If you sum up every project—all 1,730 of them—the total comes out to around $70 billion. So that answers the first question. To answer the second, we did some digging through the list… and found some startling results.

Expensive statewide projects dominated by tolls

In the “statewide” category, 9 out of the 10 most expensive projects are toll roads or toll lanes. A brief summary of each:

  • Cape Fear Crossing ($901M).  Business spur (tolled) connecting US 17 to downtown Wilmington.
  • US74 Toll Road ($775M). New section of road for the northern section of the Winston-Salem beltway.
  • Garden Parkway ($750M). Toll road from I-85 to airport. Significant local opposition.
  • Monroe Bypass ($741M). Toll road around US74 east of Charlotte. Five town boards passed resolutions opposing.
  • I-40 Toll Lanes ($1.8B). Three projects to add toll lanes from Durham to downtown Raleigh.
  • NC 540 Tri-Ex. ($856 M). Two projects extending NC’s only currently operating toll road.  Connects Durham to Holly Springs.
  • US 52 widening ($500M).  The only project on the list that is not tolled, adds general lanes from I40 to the proposed toll extension.

The toll projects add up to $6.4 billion but the “cost to the NCDOT” is only $4.6 billion. So we’re told we get infrastructure at a one-third discount if we build toll roads. That’s because the difference will be paid for with toll revenue bonds as opposed to tax receipts. Surety for the bonds is guaranteed by anticipated toll revenues so the bonds do not affect the state’s borrowing capacity.

This is why tolling is such an opiate to bureaucrats and politicians alike: it allows the state to borrow billions without having to keep it on their books. The problem, of course, is that at some point you have to pay back the loans.

Read the rest of the article at Kurt’s blog Widen I-77

Image from Shutterstock

Categories: Infrastructure, Must Read, News, Regulation, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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