A joint committee of House and Senate members is soliciting public comment on the "equity formula" set up by the legislature in 1989 to guide the distribution of most state and federal road-building money.
Is it equitable? Generally, urban types say no and rural types say yes.
That's because the equity formula does not give any weight to spending sparse dollars where North Carolina has its worst traffic congestion. Population is a factor, but residents are counted where they live and not where they drive.
So there's money available, for example, to build a U.S. 17 bypass around the town of Washington, N.C., where NCDOT officials recently had a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
DOT traffic figures show that U.S. 17 carried an average 21,000 vehicles every day in 2000 at its busiest point near Washington -- and it had the same daily traffic count, 21,000, when DOT last counted cars there in 2008. Washington's population has increased by 6 percent since 2000 to an estimated 10,216 in 2008.
Those are tiny numbers on the Triangle scale of traffic and population growth, but U.S. 17 improvements are a big cause for business and political leaders in Eastern North Carolina.
The legislature is considering whether to tinker with the equity formula. The touchy issue will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Nelson Cole of Reidsville and Sen. Steve Goss of Boone.
The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 6 in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building. Anyone who wants to speak at the meeting about the equity formula, or to provide comments in writing, is invited to contact Bob Weiss of the legislature's Fiscal Research Division (email@example.com or 919-733-4910) by March 31.
Of particular interest are comments and recommendations on:
1. The current transportation funding distribution formula, set out in G.S. 136-17.2A, and commonly known as the “Equity Formula.”
2. The effects of the current formula on transportation needs in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the State.
3. The best ways to utilize the State’s limited transportation funds