We here at The Haymaker have to stand up and applaud Her Majesty, The Queen of Pinehurst,(a/k/a Mayor Nancy Fiorillo) for speaking out so forcefully against bureaucratic tyranny:
If you are watching transportation issues here in the Sandhills, you are probably aware of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Plan to improve existing U.S. 1 (now a thoroughfare) to a limited-access expressway.
This project would affect the approximately 4 1/2 miles of U.S. 1 that currently make their way through the primary commercial areas of Southern Pines and Aberdeen. An alternative to this disruptive plan would be a U.S. 1 bypass, and the only logical route cuts through our coveted Horse Country.
A number of residents and groups have protested this effort, and the result from NCDOT has been quite punitive. Adopt a countywide highway plan addressing this “needed” improvement or lose all highway improvement funds!
If this sounds impossible, I implore you to read on. NCDOT, the state’s largest bureaucracy, has the power to require that counties adopt a plan that addresses certain areas in need of improvements according to a 1989 commitment to the “Strategic Highway Corridor Plan” (SHCP) – a plan to create a network of four-lane highways throughout the state.
If counties do not adopt plans that concur with the SHCP, they can be punished. This plan has been conceived by NCDOT and approved by NCDOT and is being implemented by NCDOT; our state legislature has never adopted it.
So, unelected bureaucrats in Raleigh have the power to bully and push around local elected officials to accept decisions that have not been blessed by elected officials in Raleigh? (For those of you who don’t know our Queen, she is a product of the bureaucracy — having spent years upon years as a planner. That makes this stance especially shocking, though quite pleasing. Read On:
[…] Is it possible to stop NCDOT’s powerful spending machine with its multibillion-dollar budget? You can bet that interested residents in the Sandhills will be watching. Are the opinions of residents worth hearing? When NC DOT engineers (most planners have been replaced) come to Moore County promising a plan that our residents can endorse, do they really mean it? Or do they really intend to persuade residents to accept the plan NCDOT has made for us?
I am a planner and I am accustomed to working with communities to develop plans and policies that meet their needs. I am NOT accustomed to engineers working with communities to advance their plans regardless of community wishes and needs.
Go get ’em, Nancy. Bureaucratic bullying from above got us things like the 55 MPH speed limit and the 21 year old drinking age (as well as all of the cost and bureaucracy associated with enforcing them). The folks in Raleigh need to give us some better explanations than “We know what’s best for you.”
Speaking of bullying from above, NCDOT secretary Gene Conti was in town recently to tout his agency’s agenda. Yes, this is the same guy who moaned publicly in a recent interview about how hard it is to live on $140,000 a year.
Conti says we taxpayers want nice roads, but don’t want to “pay” for them:
[…] The gas tax doesn’t work anymore in terms of a stable and predictable source of funding for transportation. It doesn’t work at the federal level. The federal government’s had to put in over $50 billion from general funds to support the level of funding, just to keep it at the level we’re at the last three years. So that’s not sustainable.
People are looking at alternatives, and some states have substantial sales tax revenues that go into transportation. We have the highway use tax, which comes off new vehicle sales. So everybody has a different mixture, but the basic foundation of it all is the fuel tax, and the fuel tax is not sustainable in its current form. If you go to a mileage base, that’s twice what we have today in terms of fuel economy; you’re giving up half your revenue right there.
Politically, it’s a very difficult transition because you’ve got local, state and federal levels of taxation. You’ve got distribution of money at all those levels. It’s a very complicated matter.
Tolling is another area that people just say, well, we just need to toll more. Well, I think we probably do. That makes sense to do, particularly on new construction.
There’s a lot of stuff out there, a lot of tools people use, but the foundation is eroding pretty quickly, so we need to have a pretty serious national discussion about how we repair that foundation and move forward.
Frankly there hasn’t been a lot of leadership from anybody on that subject for several years. I hope there will be some emerging in the next few years.
That’s one of the reasons that we’re traveling around — to try to educate the public about the fact that this is a long-term challenge and the public needs to come to grips with it.
OK. We’re already dealing with $4/ gallon gas. And this guy wants to add another layer of cost to operating a motor vehicle.
I remember dealing with toll roads in Virginia in the 1970s and 80s. You had to carry a bunch of quarters with you wherever you went. You often ran into traffic backlogs at toll stations. After a lot of public outcry, the tolls were removed. (They are making a comeback, however, in Northern Virginia.)
Think about all of the cost tolls would add to businesses that depend on operation of motor vehicles — trucking companies, delivery services, taxis, etc. The cost of goods you buy in stores would be affected thanks to the higher transportation costs to deliver them to the stores.
Is RIGHT NOW, in the middle of some of the worst economic turmoil in our state’s history, the right time to be talking about increasing people’s living expenses? How about having government look inward FIRST before demanding we shell out more money to feed it. What about all of the transportation funds that go toward paying for stuff that has NOTHING to do with highways? How about reexamining those construction standards that add significant cost to EVERY road construction project?
Raleigh needs to tighten its belt and clean up its act before it demands we do it. (My “belt” is already pretty tight.)