Gov Perdue says new NC highway projects fund needed

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Mayors joined Gov. Beverly Perdue on Monday to urge the Legislature to create this year a dedicated fund to build urgent road and other transportation projects they say are needed to keep the state’s economic engines roaring in the decades ahead.

The Associated Press reports Perdue wants the General Assembly to create the North Carolina MobilityFund, which the governor said would generate up to $300 million annually by 2013 through higher driver’s license fees and end a trade-in sales tax break on new car sales.

Perdue’s proposal would increase some fees in the coming year, including raising annual state vehicle registrations from $28 to $35 for cars and light trucks.

The NC Department of Transportation would use the fund to pay for efforts to ease congestion with projects of statewide significance. The current road-funding formula punishes regions that want to spend money on large projects, making them hard to accomplish.

The fund likely would first be used to widen several miles of Interstate 85 close to the Yadkin River Bridge in Davidson and Rowan counties — a key shipping corridor between Atlanta and points north. Work is about ready to start to replace the aging bridge by issuing bonds.

“North Carolina values the safety of our businesses and the people who call North Carolina home and travel through North Carolina,” Perdue told reporters at a news conference. “It’s our obligation to make our traveling public safe.”

A portion of Mobility Fund money also would go to interstate maintenance, city transportation projects and improving the state’s ports to attract industries that rely on shipping.

“The Mobility Fund is all about job creation,” Morehead City Mayor Jerry Jones said. “We need to find new revenue.”

Perdue inserted the fund in her budget proposal last month, but Senate Democrats declined to put the measure in their $19 billion spending plan last week. Senators didn’t have enough time to consider the idea in the first week of the session but they’re “open to new ways to fund transportation and are studying this issue,” said Schorr Johnson, spokesman for Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare.

The House is now considering its own version of the budget. While some House members back the idea, Sen. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, co-chairman of the House budget transportation subcommittee, isn’t sold on it when the state unemployment rate is more than 10 percent.

Perdue said it would be shortsighted of the Legislature to avoid the issue because of what she called election-year worries over fees or taxes.

“I don’t know of any business, both in North Carolina now and outside North Carolina, who will ever walk away from laying down jobs in this state because of what the cost of a DOT fee is or what the cost of a registration fee is,” Perdue said. “They will walk away if the infrastructure doesn’t meet their needs to do business.”

Click Here to learn more about the governor’s Mobility Fund proposal.

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