Unfinished business in Raleigh on road funding

From Pat Riley, chair, Charlotte Chamber, and Tim Belk, first vice chai r:

As many in the Charlotte region sit in traffic and fight increasing congestion and lack of connectivity, it becomes clear we need to build more roads. In a PPPI/Chamber survey, 55 percent of residents in Mecklenburg County said road congestion is a major issue.

We are excited that the N.C. General Assembly approved an additional $99 million in road money. It will be used to help build four toll projects. Two Charlotte regional toll projects were funded, including $24 million for the Monroe bypass and $35 million for the Garden Parkway in Gaston County.

The Charlotte Chamber is proud to have played a leading role in building regional and statewide support for this effort.

But unfinished business remains. In 2009, our priority will be to win money to speed up finishing Interstate 485 and widening its southern portion. The N.C. Department of Transportation does not plan to begin construction of the final leg (connecting I-77 in the north to I-85 in the university area) until 2015.

Such a delay is unacceptable considering the growing demands and congestion of this region.

Also in 2009, we will keep working with Rowan County and others to win money to replace the Yadkin River Bridge on I-85.

With the election, we have a chance to improve the way we manage transportation infrastructure in this state. We should find better ways to pay for needs. Revenue from our main resource, the gas tax, is flattening, as people conserve fuel.

We note the work of the 21 {+s}{+t} Century Transportation Committee and the Committee of 21. The groups represent differing views from across the state and Mecklenburg County respectively. They plan to make recommendations to the General Assembly in 2009.

Their recommendations could lead to exciting new ways to meet N.C. road-building and transit needs. Political will and citizen support will be needed to make sure we maintain our quality of life.