Included in the budget agreement rolled out today are provisions that:
* Direct the Department of Transportation to start collecting new and increased ferry tolls that had been ordered in the budget a year ago, but with some changes:
- The busy Hatteras – Ocracoke ferry across Hatteras Inlet and the Knotts Island ferry across Currituck Sound will remain toll-free, as legislators had agreed in 2011. Senate leaders previously favored tolls on these routes, too.
- The House and Gov. Bev Perdue had proposed to delay the new tolls for a year, citing economic hardship in ferry-dependent coastal communities. The leaders of both chambers agreed in the new budget to give a one-year reprieve only for riders on one route: the Cherry Branch – Minnesott Beach ferry across the Neuse River, which serves Cherry Point commuters.
- Riders on the Pamlico River ferry in Beaufort County, which also serves commuters, will have to start paying tolls for the first time.
* Cut $63 million in funding for the planned Garden Parkway near Charlotte and Mid-Currituck Bridge toll projects on the northern Outer Banks, because DOT officials have said they will not be ready to spend the money in the coming year.
* Drop a Senate proposal to charge a statewide fee of $45 for teens under age 18 who take driver education class. Local school systems are still authorized to collect a fee of up to $45, to make up for a cut in state funding last year.
* Eliminate the state’s New Starts program that supplements federal money for urban rail transit projects. The remaining $25 million in the fund will be earmarked for Charlotte’s light-rail line, which has been the only New Starts beneficiary to date. Local officials in the Triangle and other communities with plans for light-rail now will have to compete with highway projects for state money.
* Cut the gas tax, now 38.9 cents per gallon, to a maximum 37.5 cents for the coming year.
* Cut $26 million from a state fund for paving dirt roads and improving other secondary roads.