The strength of North Carolina’s competitive economy hinges on the strength of our state’s transportation infrastructure. In order to keep goods and people moving, North Carolina needs safe, efficient networks that can meet the demands of our rapidly growing population. Unfortunately, an emerging transportation funding crisis could limit our state’s ability to start and complete critical projects in all but four of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Right now, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is dangerously close to dropping below its legislative cash floor balance, which is set at 7.5% of the Department’s appropriations for the current fiscal year (NC G.S.143c-6-11(f)). If the NCDOT drops below this floor, the Department will no longer be able to enter into any new contracts. This would also preclude the Department from receiving any federal funding grants until its cash balance is back above the floor. In anticipation of impending funding challenges, the Department suspended preliminary engineering for approximately 900 transportation projects across the state. In addition, the NCDOT has delayed the letting of 300 construction project contracts for three years, as well as 49 projects already under contract with an estimated cost of $399 million.
The ramifications of this funding crisis on the infrastructure industry are steep. Many employers are being forced to eliminate positions and lay off employees, as these job creators made hiring decisions based on the labor needs for current and pending contracts. For an industry that already has difficulty finding a stable workforce, these delays and subsequent layoffs could significantly impact future talent supply. Should employers in our state be forced to let employees go, we will lose talent to competing states, and once they’re gone, it could be very difficult for us to get them back. North Carolina businesses cannot afford to lose their talented employees to competitors in other states, no matter the circumstance.
With members of the aligned business community, we recently launched the “NC Can’t Afford to Stop” Coalition to solve our current funding challenges and prevent future shortfalls. Working collaboratively, the coalition is focused on developing funding solutions that can address the industry and NCDOT’s immediate needs, as well as a long-term, future-focused plan to increase available transportation infrastructure investment for decades to come. With more than 100 businesses and associations as members of the coalition, we are off to a strong start, but we’re not done. The uncertainty of this crisis will create a ripple effect throughout our state’s competitive economy, impacting businesses in every industry. To show that your business supports predictable, consistent infrastructure funding, join our coalition and help us return stability to transportation investment.
Thank you to those of you who have already joined our efforts.