Sunday, June 1, 2008

State of NC Stepping Up

Today in the Charlotte Observer there was an article about a $1.6 Billion in State Funds to match local transportation efforts. It also authorizes all of the large regions to pass a sales tax if they so choose similar to the 1/2 cent sales tax that exists in Charlotte. But the best part about this is that it leaves decisions up to the localities.

The bill doesn't appropriate any money. It simply authorizes urban counties to adopt local taxes for transportation projects and authorizes creation of the Congestion Relief and Intermodal Transportation 21st Century Fund to provide money for an array of transportation uses. How it would be funded would be decided in another legislative session. But the bill offers Wake, Durham and Orange counties in the Triangle and Forsyth and Guilford in the Triad the opportunity to do what Charlotte has done.

"I just think it starts the framework for a comprehensive transportation plan for North Carolinians, giving them options for getting to work, shopping and recreation," said Carney. "It broadens our thinking for the 21st and 22nd century transportation options."

There's one other thing. Because the bill doesn't appropriate money, it leaves decision-making to local voters, Carney said. "This is about the public, not the legislature, deciding what is best.

This means we could see more money in North Carolina for transit options. With the Triangle looking at an intermodal plan, this could push money their way. And with improved federal funding hopefully under a new administration, Charlotte might be able to speed up their expansion given the extra availability of funds. Currently they are trying to move up the streetcar to 2013 from 2018.

CATS officials also have intentions of extending the light rail to University City by 2015 at an estimated cost of $750 million and building commuter rail to the Lake Norman area by 2012 for an estimated $261 million.

CATS chief executive Keith Parker said in March that CATS can't do all three projects at once without a new funding source.

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