NC Leaders: Transportation Policy is Changing – We Need a Bipartisan Commitment to Put NC Out Front
Sepi Saidi, PE, chief executive officer of SEPI, Inc., is a visionary leader who has led the company she founded in 2001 to become a premier multi-disciplinary engineering firm focused on pioneering solutions to the most complex challenges of today’s built environment. Chair of the NC Chamber’s Board of Directors, Sepi also serves as a leader on our Destination 2030 Coalition, pursuing a modernized transportation funding model for our state.
“They always say time changes things, but actually, you have to change them yourself,” said Andy Warhol, an artist who knew a thing or two about change. Think about that quote for a moment, then think about all the things you have seen or known in your lifetime that come to mind when you think of the word “change.” Was it simply time that ushered in most of that change – or did people have a hand in it?
I bet most of you answered people, but then again, I am a little biased. At the company I founded and lead, our people specialize in changing our communities for the better, one project at a time. When our engineers install a new bridge or design a safer traffic intersection, they literally take a vision for the future filled with positive change for that community and put in the work to transform that vision into reality. People, changing their environment, for the betterment of all – that is what engineering means to us at SEPI, Inc.
I think that must be why I was so excited to see the News & Observer publish two opinion pieces this week – one from Gov. Roy Cooper, the other from North Carolina Sen. Vickie Sawyer – addressing the need for our state to make big changes in the way we fund our transportation network. Read closely and you will see that a simple truth resounds throughout both pieces:
Change is coming, and it is people and our drive to innovate that is bringing it – and when it comes to how we fund our transportation network, if we want to secure a lead position with the innovators in a new era of transportation policy, North Carolina must shift into a new gear.
The NC Chamber and job creators like SEPI, Inc. have long championed this need, and since 2020, the Chamber’s Destination 2030 Coalition has led a business-driven effort to get solutions on the table and push for bold change from our leaders. Fortunately, this year will offer legislators and policymakers a golden opportunity to usher in big changes that would strengthen mobility, nurture connectivity, and fuel commerce and competitiveness across our state.
How? By enacting a bipartisan solution to secure a truly modernized transportation funding model – one that can sustain North Carolina’s economic security and the healthy growth of our communities through the current century, and beyond. After all, thanks to the NC Chamber’s Destination 2030 Coalition, the blue-ribbon NC FIRST Commission, and various legislative initiatives, solutions are on the table. Now, our leaders must act on them.
These days in North Carolina, when people talk about transportation, their focus is often on the negative – on project delays and budget overruns. And I do understand, we have our share of challenges as a state, and we feel them at SEPI, Inc.
I prefer to focus on the positive. When it comes to transportation, there is so much to be positive about. That is, if we can only secure a funding strategy powered by the right balance of innovative solutions that can remain durable, equitable, and competitive with other states.
Imagine – with sustained funding capacity for transportation investments, construction will begin on a wave of sidelined projects, growing jobs and jump-starting development in pockets and corridors around the state. North Carolina will capitalize on the full potential of the investments we are making in our airports, in new rail connections, in multimodal linkages, and in cold storage, shipping capacity, and ag-transload enhancements at our NC Ports – all critical links to an increasingly global economy and keys to our future competitiveness.
Think of the safer, more comfortable drives to work or that trip you always take with your family or your friends – to our gorgeous mountains, or to one of our beautiful beaches – and the peace you will feel along the way. Think of the communities we will watch come to life and flourish; one day not too distant, a new city may grow where a town once stood, a decade on, perhaps another, new gardens of opportunity for new generations of North Carolinians.
Think of our resilience when uncertainty does fall over our state. Now imagine, for just a moment, what will happen if we do not change. Is that a vision of the future you hope to leave for those who come next?
A change is coming, North Carolina, and our leaders have a choice: Keep spinning our wheels while others get in the race, or make firm, bipartisan commitments to lead in a new age of transportation policy. To quote my friend, NC Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido: “The time for North Carolina’s leaders to buckle up and get in the driver’s seat is now!”
Sepi Saidi, PE
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
NC Chamber Government Affairs Director Mark Coggins, Destination 2030 Coalition Chair Jake Cashion, and coalition allies helped start the positive change we need last year at the General Assembly, securing legislation to ensure that millions more in annual transportation revenue from short-term vehicle leases goes to the state’s Highway Fund. But as revenues from our main transportation funding sources continue to dwindle, we will need a bigger kind of change to offset that loss.
Join your organization to the Destination 2030 Coalition as we reconvene for a series of three exclusive strategy meetings over the coming months – on Feb. 18, March 24, and April 20, all at 10:00 a.m.