A new report released by TRIP – a national transportation research nonprofit and NC Chamber partner – shows that America’s 64-year-old Interstate Highway System has seen unprecedented congestion in recent decades even as the federal government has failed to secure adequate funding for its upkeep. The report, Restoring the Interstate Highway System: Meeting America’s Transportation Needs with a Reliable, Safe & Well-Maintained National Highway Network, finds that North Carolina’s interstates saw the third-highest increase in vehicle miles traveled between 2000 and 2018 and that we have the 18th-highest share (3 percent) of interstate bridges rated in poor or structurally deficient condition. Moreover, 21 percent of North Carolina’s interstate bridges were found in need of repair or replacement.
The NC Chamber thanks TRIP for providing this important report on the status of our interstate network. In a joint statement, NC Chamber Director of Government Affairs Mark Coggins had this to say: “In North Carolina, it is no secret that we have had our challenges keeping our transportation funding up to speed with our growing population. Rising costs from historic storms and an inadequate revenue stream have combined to create a transportation crisis. The growth in traffic on our Interstates and the mediocre conditions of our roads and bridges revealed in this report highlight just how dire that crisis has become. Our state, its businesses, and its people all rely on transportation to succeed. The TRIP report makes it clear that our state’s leaders must act to modernize our revenue stream and encourage federal leaders to make the infrastructure investments our nation needs to secure a prosperous future.”
For transportation departments across the country, including here in North Carolina, the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the funding picture as gas revenues have dropped off substantially with far fewer drivers on the roads. According to this recent Washington Post article, America’s transportation departments are facing a projected $50 billion shortfall due to this drop in revenue. While traffic has rebounded on the nation’s roads in recent weeks, it remains well below normal levels, and the prospect of continued disruption raises questions about the future viability of the motor fuels tax as a primary funding mechanism. Efforts to encourage federal leaders to address this revenue shortfall have so far resulted in no substantial rescue package, either from Congress or the White House.
North Carolina’s transportation challenges earned a special mention in the Washington Post article due to a legal provision recently triggered by low cash reserves at NCDOT that prevented the department from entering into any new contracts. The article also noted the substantial number of delayed projects (more than 100) announced by the state prior to the pandemic. Here at the Chamber, we aim to do something about these challenges. In recent weeks, we’ve begun convening a broad-based alliance of businesses and business-minded organizations, the Destination 2030 Coalition, that will work together to push for a more modernized transportation revenue model in 2021 and beyond. By clicking here and adding your organization’s name to this new coalition, you’ll be amplifying our collective voice on this vital issue.
The NC Chamber Foundation is also hard at work to help solve North Carolina’s transportation challenges. Later this summer, the Foundation, in partnership with NC State’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE), will release the results of a new study which builds on previous research to identify the 4 most viable long-term transportation funding options for our state. By joining the Destination 2030 Coalition, you will have the chance to provide feedback for how we use these new insights to drive our progress on transportation as we move toward the 2021 legislative session.