"We have some problems growing out of our successes."
That's putting it mildly. That's how state House Speaker Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill broached the sticky subject of Triangle traffic problems -- how to fix them, and how to pay for the fix.
"Research Triangle Park ... is the backbone of our economic success here in the Triangle, most people think, but it is the very definition of sprawl," Hackney told a Raleigh audience today. "It was built on the car. It's difficult to get anywhere in the Triangle without a car, and so we have some sort of unique problems in this area that others don't have."
Hackney spoke at an Urban Land Institute forum on infrastructure needs and how to pay for them.
Hackney said he didn't know whether Triangle legislators could work out their differences this year on legislation to give county commissioners the option to levy a half cent sales tax for transit projects, if voters approve the tax in a referendum.
But he has big plans for transportation next year.
We'll have a new governor in 2009 and, Hackney said, a legislature he hopes will be receptive to big-picture, big-ticket recommendations expected this fall from the state's 21st Century Transportation Study Commission.
"We are planning right now in a big way, I hope, with our 21st Century transportation study for a big push in the 2009 session -- in transit, in the repair of our roads and highways, in the extension of our inter-city rail, in airports, all of it. Completion of loops," he said.
Legislators will be ready to push for changes at the state Department of Transportation, he said. Hackney faults DOT for trailing other state agencies in working with local government so that transportation and land use and other planning go together.
"I think most people in the legislature believe DOT is ripe for a major reorganization. We will have new management in DOT from one side or the other in January. ...
"DOT, if you do local planning on roads and DOT doesn't like it, they just run over that. Is that what we want, or do we want something in the middle? All these are things we must figure out in the next decade," Hackney said.