Fearing shortfall, state DOT freezes hiring

The state Department of Transportation began a hiring freeze Wednesday over budget concerns and an anticipated shortfall in the Federal Highway Trust Fund, according to a memo from the department.

The memo from Angela Faulk, the department's director of human resources, said the freeze will remain in effect until U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters “determines our financial future as impacted by the U.S. Senate Highway Trust Fund Solvency Bill proposal now under consideration.”

No new positions will be posted at DOT, but positions that have already begun the hiring process will be completed. The department will not reallocate positions, the memo said.

Faulk's memo was issued Tuesday.

Peters is asking Congress for short-term relief by passing pending legislation that would make an additional $8 billion available for the fund, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced last week. The House of Representatives has already approved the bill.

The primary funding source for the Federal Highway Trust Fund is a federal gasoline tax. But as motorists cut back on their driving to combat high gasoline prices, the federal government is losing about $3.2 billion that should go toward road construction projects.

In North Carolina, DOT officials said in July the agency could lose around $300 million, less than 10 percent of the DOT's $4 billion budget. About 10,000 industry jobs could be lost statewide.