Report: Sixteen percent of Wilmington-area major roads are in poor condition
As more people switch to electric cars, fuel taxes will provide less funding for roads in the state
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A new report from a national nonprofit found that 16 percent of major roads in the Wilmington area are in poor condition, and that more funding sources will be needed to keep up with increasing costs.
TRIP, a National Transportation Research Nonprofit, published the report and hosted a press conference on Wednesday, April 19. The data used was collected from the N.C. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Another 26 percent of major roads in the Wilmington area are in mediocre condition, with the rest in fair or good condition. Statewide, about 10 percent of major roads are in poor condition and 23 percent are in mediocre condition.
Wilmington has a relatively low share of poor/structurally deficient bridges: 3 percent vs. 5-6 percent in other metro areas. Rocky Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research, was unable to comment during the press conference on the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in particular, deferring to state and local transportation agencies.
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce CCE, President and CEO Natalie Haskins English provided a statement in TRIP’s online report.
“The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge (CFMB), which is beyond its 50-year lifespan, is a critical connection to the NC State Ports at Wilmington, to the workforce that commutes into Wilmington, and to the visitors that fuel our tourism economy. A replacement is our top infrastructure priority and is not included in the current State Transportation Improvement Program. We must identify additional funding to make it a reality,” English said.
The report found that, while drivers in the Wilmington area lose about 26 hours and $646 each year to congestion, drivers in other urban areas experienced similar or increased delays.
Traffic fatalities in the state continue to increase each year, from about 1,412 in 2017 to 1,627 in 2021. The NCDOT provided the following statement:
“While NCDOT does not typically comment on reports prepared outside of the department, we appreciate any discussions on ways to fund the future of transportation in North Carolina. NCDOT will continue to work with our partners to deliver safe and reliable transportation options for all who travel in our state.”
The press conference focused on a need to shift funding sources for road maintenance. While the NCDOT spent $656 million on road preservation in 2022, the department had recommended spending about $341 million more.
“The state’s long-term transportation funding sustainability is threatened by a significant increase in highway construction, inflation, and also by the increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles, and also the increasing adoption of electric vehicles, which is going to reduce the effectiveness of the state and federal motor fuel taxes in terms of raising revenue for transportation,” said Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research.
Moretti and NC Chamber President and CEO Gary Salamido both spoke on the need for new sources of transportation. The report cites efforts like N.C. HB 103 passed in 2022, which allocated state sales tax revenue to road and highway projects and is expected to provide $7.2 billion in highway funding in the next decade. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed in 2021 will also allow the N.C. Department of Transportation to increase its annual investment in road and bridge preservation by 17 and 22 percent respectively.
But as efforts continue to put more electric vehicles on the road, fuel taxes won’t be able to bear the weight of highway funding as they have in the past.
“Our transportation funding formula is heavily on our motor fuels tax. And as we all know, that’s gonna be dwindling over time. And so we have to continue to look for alternative ways to diversify our revenue sources to pay for these key transportation infrastructure investments,” said Salamido.
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