Wednesday, October 17, 2012

McCrory, Dalton talk transportation

Courtesy of Julie White at the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, here's an account of the transportation-related exchanges from Tuesday night's gubernatorial debate on UNC-TV, between Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and Republican Pat McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor:

To view the video, watch below or click here to visit the WRAL website.

Here's a lightly edited version of what White, director of the Mayors Coalition, sent via her regular email newsletter:

The N.C. Metropolitan Mayors were delighted last night with the inclusion of transportation-related questions in the televised gubernatorial debate last night. The Mayors Coalition had written the debate hosts citing the declining health of our state's transportation infrastructure and asked them to include questions about the candidate's vision for transportation investment in the future.
 Our coalition and our chairman received shout outs from McCrory last night during the debate. At 34 minutes into the debate, the candidates were asked how they would work with those across the aisle in a bipartisan manner. McCrory noted his success as mayor working with his bipartisan city council and his efforts working with then-Gov. Jim Hunt to implement a major transportation initiative that is a role model for the nation. He then cited his work to found the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition and cited it as a bipartisan group of mayors from the east, Piedmont and west working together and speaking with one voice. He noted that he was proud to be a founding member of the group. McCrory also gave a shout-out to the Metro Mayors Coalition chairman, Durham Mayor Bill Bell, who was in the audience.
At 13 minutes into the debate the candidates concurred in their thoughts that the state should continue the current cap on the gas tax. Dalton cited the fact that we are efficient with our transportation system through our state-maintained system of roads and said we don't need 100 smaller DOTs across the state.

Twenty-two minutes into the debate the candidates were asked if there were inequities in how transportation dollars were distributed across the state. McCrory said that most regions of our state rural and urban have major interstates running through them and are therefore punished because the interstate spending leaves little for other roads. He referred to the equity formula as the "unequity" formula and said that many mayors of both large and small towns have been complaining about it for years. He cited I-95, I-85, I-40, and I-26 as examples in both rural and urban parts of the state that have a difficult time affording to address their needs outside the interstates.
Dalton noted that the grass is always greener as everyone thinks they don't get their fair share of transportation dollars. Dalton advocated for more regionalism. He noted that the Logistics Taskforce he chaired advocated for combining the NCDOT highway divisions to create more regionalism.
 At the 40-minute mark the candidates were asked how they would repair I-95 and if not through tolling then how. McCrory said tolling an existing road was a bad idea. He noted that there are proposals for some new roads that are not supported by their local residents and that we could shift those dollars to the I-95 project. He talked again about the negative effects the state's equity formula has on regions with major interstates running through them and noted that he pushed as mayor for a separate fund to address interstates. He said we have politicized transportation for too long and that we have played shell games with our federal funding. He said he would make decisions for roads not based on politics but based on where the experts say we need the roads to connect the urban and rural areas as well as the ports, airports, east, west and Piedmont. He talked about creating a 25-year infrastructure plan for the state as he did for Charlotte as mayor.

Dalton said tolls should be a last resort and if you implement them you must offer an alternative route that is not tolled. He said it was less offensive to toll a new road. He advocating prioritization of projects and talked about the recommendations related to inland ports from the Logistics Task Force he chaired. He advocated that we work with the congressional delegation to ensure the federal government returns to North Carolina the same amount of federal taxes we send to Washington, D.C. And he advocated for the expanded use of public-private partnerships, the lease-purchase of roads and more innovative financing options.
(The time references White sent would allow you to view the transportation-related exchanges.)