The Chief Operating Officer of the North Carolina Department of Transportation was in Charlotte last week to explain how a legislative proposal to change the funding strategy for road projects across the state could help spur greater economic development.
Jim Trogdon told the Transportation Committee of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce that the proposed Strategic Mobility Formula would allow the state to use its limited road funds more strategically, and ensure dollars are deployed as effectively as possible.
As opposed the current funding approach, which requires that available transportation funds be distributed equitably among the state’s seven regions, the proposed formula would direct funding to projects with maximum impact on economic development.
The new strategy would assign projects to one of three categories:
Statewide projects would receive 40 percent of all state funding ($6 billion over the next decade), and would be classified as investments with a statewide impact, such as interstates, national highway routes and major airports. The project selection process will be 100 percent data-driven.
Regional projects would receive 30 percent of all funding ($3 billion over the next decade), and would have to improve mobility within one of the seven existing NCDOT regions (each region is made up of 2 NCDOT divisions). Data will comprise 70 percent of the decision-making process and local rankings by area planning organizations and the NCDOT Transportation Divisions will round out the remaining 30 percent of the decision criteria.
Divisional projects would receive 30 percent of all funding ($3 billion over the next decade), which would be divided equally among the state’s 14 transportation divisions. Funding decisions would be 50 percent driven by local input, and 50 percent by mobility data. These funds could go toward bike/PED projects, general aviation airports, and rail lines not spanning more than 2 counties.
Trogdon said the new funding formula, which has yet to be approved by the General Assembly, would allow NCDOT to deliver more than 260 transportation projects in the next decade, resulting in an estimated 240,000 new jobs. Under the current equity formula, he said, only 175 new projects are expected to be funded.
Trogdon described NCDOT’s Strategic Mobility Formula as a necessary first step in addressing a growing challenge in transportation funding. State resources are rapidly declining, and federal transportation dollars could drop as much as 25 percent in the coming years. With North Carolina’s population expected to grow by 1.3 million in the next decade, demand for new road investments will only increase. But because of new federal fuel efficiency standards and a increasingly urban population that drives fewer miles, the state’s motor fuel revenue is expected to drop by $1.7 billion over the same period.
This growing “Infrastructure Gap,” Trogdon explained, will soon require policymakers to “think way outside the box” when it comes to transportation funding. Currently, North Carolina has the 10th highest gas tax in nation, yet ranks 48th in transportation revenue per road mile traveled. The challenge for NCDOT, he said, will be to identify new revenue sources that will grow with population, lowering the rate and broadening the base.
For more on the proposed Strategic Mobility Formula, click HERE.