Transportation Reform in North Carolina

SELC is working to reform transportation policies that saddle taxpayers with the cost of unnecessary new highways that drain funds from real transportation needs.

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In North Carolina, SELC is working vigorously to reform transportation policies that saddle taxpayers with the cost of unnecessary new highways that drain funds from real transportation needs while increasing sprawl, energy consumption, and pollution. At the same time, we are helping decision-makers recognize that North Carolinians want more of their tax dollars devoted to clean, efficient, and sustainable modes of travel—from improved rail and transit service to pedestrian and bike projects.

Our goal is to help provide North Carolinians with the transportation system they need and deserve: a system that reduces harm to our health and environment, provides affordable access to jobs and needed services, and makes the best use of scarce public money. 

Getting Wasteful Projects off the Books

For decades, politics has been the main driver of transportation spending in North Carolina. Exhibit A is the long list of expensive toll highway projects written into statute by powerful politicians and blindly pursued by NCDOT regardless of their merit. From the Garden Parkway west of Charlotte to the Southeast Extension of the Triangle Expressway to the Mid-Currituck Bridge and Cape Fear Skyway on the coast, these projects would increase air and water pollution, chew through rural lands and natural areas, and burden North Carolinians with years of debt. Toll revenues would cover less than half their cost.

SELC has gone to court to challenge wasteful, sprawl-inducing highway proposals such as the Monroe Bypass, and we have successfully championed legislation in the General Assembly session that takes politically-driven projects off the books. The new Strategic Mobility Formula, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in June 2013, also puts in place an objective, fact-based scoring system for selecting future projects. SELC will make certain that pork-barrel politics isn’t allowed to creep back into the selection process and that it results in projects that are genuinely needed to keep the state moving.

Providing a Vision for the Future

As North Carolina develops a new 25-year transportation plan, SELC is weighing in to make sure the planning process is transparent and that it sets priorities that make sense for a rapidly urbanizing state. North Carolinians, like all Americans, are driving less and want to live closer to where they work and shop. They need transportation options that go beyond more asphalt. SELC is organizing a coalition of groups that will advocate statewide investment in transit and other alternatives to driving. We also promote “fix-it-first” investments to address the state’s alarming maintenance backlog and to improve the safety and efficiency of existing roads and bridges.

Meeting Rural Transportation Needs

Having conducted an in-depth analysis of North Carolina’s rural transportation challenges, SELC is urging the state to make much-needed safety improvements to reduce the high rate of fatalities on rural roads. It should also stop funding expensive bypasses of rural communities that kill local businesses. Bypasses built around small towns do little to reduce travel times and have contributed to the shuttering of main streets across the state. Funds should instead be directed towards commuter buses, rail upgrades, broadband, and other infrastructure that gives rural North Carolinians greater access to economic opportunity. 

In the mountains of southwestern North Carolina, we are advocating upgrades to existing roads rather than the proposed construction of new highways along "Corridor K" between Asheville and Chattanooga. Pushing new pavement through rugged terrain and national forest lands would take a huge toll on natural treasures that are vital to the region’s economy and natural beauty.

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