House Budget Includes $1.4 Billion for Toll Roads

So often in this debate we’ve heard elected officials say we need to find new sources of funding for roads.  With vehicles getting better fuel economy, gas tax receipts are projected to decline by about 2% annually.  And with more people moving to the state, the strain on our infrastructure will be even greater.

Before we get to the budget, we need to point out something: there is but one source of funding for roads.  It’s us- the people- who ultimately pay.  Whether that comes from taxes or tolls, it’s still pulled from the same wallet.  For the I-77 HOT lanes, NCDOT officials tout “we’ll get $3 of infrastructure for every $1 we spend” because a private company is putting up the difference.

This is simply not the case.  The private companies are not donating anything- they expect to be repaid with interest.  In the end, if there’s $3 of infrastructure spent, we’re the ones paying for it.  So the issue is not finding “new sources of revenues,” but rather using the one source we have most efficiently.

Which brings us to the recently passed house budget.  Buried in the back are a couple of line items for the Turnpike Authority (NCTA), the entity chartered with building toll roads.  For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, they’re slated to receive $154M.  For FY 2014-2015, the number is $1.4 billion.

This is a staggering number, especially in light of the fact that fuel tax receipts in 2013 are projected to be around $1.8 billion in total.  How are we able to fund $1.4 billion for toll lanes alone?

The answer is, in a word, debt.  The budget shows a line item of $1.4 billion for “requirements,” and right below it another line item for $1.4 billion in “receipts.”  So the plan is, starting in July 2014, the state will issue toll revenue bonds in the amount of $1,404,739,602.

This is in addition to the $788 million in debt the NCTA issued last year.  How efficiently has the NCTA used that borrowed money?  The first (and only) project they’ve completed is the Triangle Expressway, at a cost of $1billion.  In 20 years it is projected to carry half the traffic I-77 does today.  You can read more about it here, but suffice it to say if we’re in a funding bind we should not be spending a billion dollars on a road few people use.

Above all, let’s remember tolling- and the debt issued to enable it- is not a “new source of funding for roads.”  Rather, it’s putting it on our children’s credit card.

Update: spelled out “billions” and “millions” to avoid any confusion.

10 Responses to House Budget Includes $1.4 Billion for Toll Roads

  1. mjm77713 says:

    Excellent point on their misuse of words and intent. (Wasn’t Tillis just heard saying there are no plans to put toll roads anywhere but I77? Then what’s the $1.4B for?)

    So what’s the big picture look like for Widen I77 after the NCRC? “Hope” still looms big as a strategy. Hope the house self-corrects. Hope that HOT’s implode under the weight of sooo much stoopid. (But they’ll just re-work it under a new name or guise.) Hope no firm accepts terms of the state’s limitations, and they all back out. Hope… so anyway, do you hope to run for office this autumn?

  2. Peninsula Club says:

    Wake up North Carolina!!! Tolls are coming to a highway near you!! Thank Tom Tillis.
    The “T” in HOT Lanes stands for TOLLS.
    … And tolls are taxes.
    So do the math— Thom Tillis wants to tax North Carolinians MORE!!!
    Good luck running for Senate!!!
    -from a Republican who will vote Democrat!!

    • John says:

      I totally understand… but before you vote Democrat, vote GREG BRANNON in the primary and show the establishment that the grassroots doesn’t want another RINO sellout to special interests.

  3. shuds12 says:

    Excellent. Good choice. Shar

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is amazing to me that no alternative has been found to HOT lanes basically in the Lake Norman area. It is even more baffling that those in power coudl have come up with another plan as they actually live in the area. Makes you wonder what is going on behind closed doors and how most of the elected officials bought into the HOT lanes. Why only 3 lanes form exit 28 to 36? Either make it 4 lanes in both directions ar leave it the mess it is. May be time to move to another state and I love the Charlotte-Lake Norman area.

  5. K.C. says:

    “They” keep saying “it’s a done deal,” surely to encourage folks to give up. Is a contract signed yet or not? It does not look like it to this amateur. I presume that fact would be flaunted far & wide to make us go away. NC DOT’s project site shows Short Listed Proposers, dated Aug 2012, and Project Synopsis, dated 5/2013. The Synopsis had to be updated to drag it down to Brookshire, no doubt. Reference:
    https://connect.ncdot.gov/letting/Pages/Design-Build-Letting-Details.aspx?let_id=I-77 High Occupancy Toll Lanes

  6. […] the consideration that toll revenues will never be sufficient to retire capital cost.  Conversely, as we reported here, North Carolina plans to issue hundreds of millions in toll revenue bonds.  In fact, by the end of […]

  7. […] the consideration that toll revenues will never be sufficient to retire capital cost.  Conversely, as we reported here, North Carolina plans to issue hundreds of millions in toll revenue bonds.  In fact, by the end of […]

  8. […] North Carolina, the much-debated budget right now has $1.4B for toll revenue bonds.  Our elected officials have often stated that we must resort to tolls as a way to fund roads. I […]

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