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First, fix the roads

In his recent report on state transportation spending, Randal O’Toole agrees with the NC FIRST Commission that the state should move from the gas tax to a mileage-based user fee for road funding but questions the commission’s assumptions on how much money the state needs. John Hood wrote in 2019, “In many cases, the right answer will consist not of ‘how to’ but, simply, ‘no.'”

The report provides a way to act on ideas like “Placing more of the burden for transportation maintenance on the direct beneficiaries of a certain road or transportation node—drivers, riders, and property owners—provides a clear signal of the value of a project and the possible return on investment.”

In my presentation to the Board of Transportation, before they launched NC FIRST, I noted that “almost $2.3 billion of that $4.7 billion (including almost all of the federal money) builds new roads while just $1.3 billion pays to maintain the roads and bridges that have already been built.” You can see how this compares in the graphic below from the Washington Post.

O’ Toole looks at the results with mild understatement: “The condition of state collector roads and some arterials is declining, suggesting the state is not putting enough money into maintenance.”

 

Joseph Coletti / Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies

Joe Coletti is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation focused on fiscal policy issues. He previously headed the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiativ...