ON THE STREET – News from the SIC

Bill Gilmore, PE / September 28, 2015

The 2015 NC General Assembly Adjourned at 4:18 AM Wednesday (9/30/15)

North Carolina budget is completed.  Needless to say, passage of the State Budget has been exhausting. While the bill was in the negotiation phase, it was called H97 (House Bill 97) and includes many important transportation provisions. The ratified bill is now Session Law 2015-241.

How did it happen? There was tremendous effort by many advocates to ensure that the state budget included a healthy degree of funding reform to account for decade-long dwindling transportation funds. There are many to be thanked for the effort. Champions like the NC Chamber of Commerce and NC Go! provided time, resources, and capital outlay to help educate our legislators with facts related to the declining state of our transportation system and the opportunity for improvement. NCSITE, along with a long list of professional partners, assisted these champions. The result of this combined effort is the most significant transportation-related initiative since the 1989 highway bill . . . a monumental effort.

Transportation Related Reform. Pertaining to the transportation industry in North Carolina, this session law provides changed and new funding sources, additional reporting requirements, streamlining, and reporting measures of the NCDOT.

At our recent Strategic Initiatives Council meeting held on September 22, speakers Bobby Lewis, PE (NCDOT Chief of Staff) and Mike Holder, PE (NCDOT Chief Engineer) provided a synopsis of the coming year action items.  Both speakers offered recurring messages to the audience:

  • Session law 2015-241 has brought significant funds to the department to improve our transportation systems
  • The legislature and public are expecting delivery on time and budget
  • New means and methods are being deployed to deliver the session law expectations. This involves streamlining and continuous process improvement
  • Teamwork is required to meet the new demands and involves internal and external partners

The following are some highlights of their presentations:

  • New revenues (Biennial= $1.158 billion)
    • Increases most DMV fees by 30%
    • Adjusts DMV fees every 4 years based on CPI
    • Increases some Highway Use Tax Caps
    • Reduces motor fuel tax deductions
    • Stops General Fund Transfer which increase budget availability (not revenues)
    • Changes Motor Fuel Tax Revenue Distribution
      • From 75% to Highway Fund* and 25% to Highway Trust Fund**
      • To 71% Highway Fund and 29% to Highway Trust Fund
    • Increases State Transportation Revenues used for Transportation
      • From 85% in 2008
      • To 99.5% in 2016 forward
  • Two-year ADDITIONAL Appropriations 2015/16 and 2016/17
    • $337.3M (recurring) for Strategic Transportation Investment projects
    • $146.0M (recurring) for the Bridge Program
    • $146.8M (recurring) for Contract Resurfacing
    • $40M (recurring) for Pavement Preservation
    • $15M (non-recurring) for Pavement Preservation ( SFY 2015/16)
    • $36.4M (recurring) for Secondary Road Maintenance
    • $20.7M (non-recurring) for Secondary Road Maintenance
  • NCDOT STI ADDITIONAL Projects= 70 as a result of this law (approximately – listing is being developed by NCDOT)
  • A significant focus on port expansion.  To make our state more competitive and expand economic opportunity, certain funds are directed to our ports.
  • Additional REPORTing Requirements:   SL 2015-241 calls for increased reporting, accounting, and action. In summary the NCDOT is required to be:
    • Responsive. – there are specified repair and maintenance requirement for safety and non-safety related needs for items ranging from “pot holes” to guard rails.
    • Efficient. – by streamlining project delivery, consolidating environmental review process, reviewing ways to collapse project stages and establishing baseline unit pricing to confirm consistency of capital outlay
    • Performance oriented – through annual job satisfaction surveys and deficiency correction
    • Oversight of staffing needs – by creating personnel budgets and optimizing staff for each production unit
    • Restructure – Set strategic goals and increase decision making to the field (division). Reduce central staff and shift/reassign from central (Raleigh) to field offices (divisions). Increase productivity through increased outsourcing when practicable.
    • Transparent – by providing performance dashboards and tools to track and manage progress

The above discussion is a result of years of hard work to shore up our North Carolina transportation industry and place it back on the path of the “Good Roads State.” You are encouraged to express your gratitude to anyone who helped or participated in this cause to include your legislators, your professional partners, NC Chamber of Commerce, NC Go!, City and County officials, and the leadership at NCDOT.