Legislation that could change the state Department of Transportation's relationship with North Carolina cities has been shelved while DOT and city leaders try to become better friends.
One provision would reclassify an estimated 4,700 miles of minor state-maintained roads inside city and town limits across the state, and start a process of shifting them to local government responsibility (see today's Road Worrier column).
Local elected officials have lobbied against that plan because the measure would not provide additional money to cover the additional local road maintenance expense.
The bills also would change a once-per-year schedule used by DOT to distribute so-called Powell Bill funds for street maintenance costs to local towns and cities. DOT wants to spread out the payments to twice a year.
"We've parked that bill for the year -- we're not going to run it," Sen. Clark Jenkins of Edgecombe County, sponsor of the Senate measure, said today. He said DOT and city leaders will try to find areas of agreement, and the legislature might be ready to consider the measure again next year.
Julie White, director of the N.C. Metropolitan Coalition, which represents the state's larger cities, said her group and the League of Municipalities are talking with DOT leaders.
"We offered last week to do what we can to help DOT's cash flow problem with regard to Powell Bill funds," White said. It might take more time to find agreement on transferring DOT roads to the cities, she said.
"The way the law is already written, individual cities can sit down now with DOT and negotiate the transfer of roads, and some of our cities do. Any broader dialogue about transfer of roads needs to include new revenues, too. I think that's a much longer-term matter, given state revenues and the state of the economy."
Last year 506 towns and cities received $145 million in Powell Bill street funds, an average of $1,700 per mile for the 21,332 miles of streets they maintain.