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So, may we borrow that $1 billion now?

NC Turnpike AuthorityDavid Joyner hopes everybody in Wall Street and Washington will calm down in the next couple of weeks, before he tries to borrow $1 billion from them.

Joyner, the executive director of the N.C. Turnpike Authority, needs to get the money in October so he can break ground in December on the 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway in Research Triangle Park and western Wake County. ...

East Franklin Street pumps running dry

On East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, Walker’s BP has been out of regular gas since Monday.

Owner David Walker is limiting customers to 10 gallons of premium or mid-grade gas.

“They’re expecting I’ll get a half load of regular this afternoon, about 4,000 gallons,” Walker said this morning. That’s how much he received in his last shipment on Sept. 17.
[Update: Walker received a delivery early this afternoon and was again selling all three grades of gas.]

Walker’s gasoline normally comes from wholesale terminals in Greensboro or Selma, but this week his supplier traveled to Virginia and Wilmington to find fuel.

“We haven’t had anything like this since the 1970s, when they were rationing gas and people could only get it on odd or even days,” said Walker, whose father started the family service station business in 1956.

“This has been pretty bad.”

He said the limited supplies have run out quickly because many motorists panicked and bought all they could get.

“When people realized this was going to happen, everybody was filling up, filling up gas cans,” Walker said. “That didn’t help the situation.

“I panicked, too. I filled up my cars. I filled up my gas cans.”

Other Chapel Hill stations this week have run out of regular or premium or both.

“It’s spotty. You can find it, but you might have to ride around a while, and you might be limited as to what you can buy,” Walker said.

Two blocks way at East Franklin Exxon, owner Ronnie Ragan said he had been out of gas for about 24 hours Sunday and Monday — and he probably would run out again later today.

“Right now we have all three grades,” Ragan said. “I’ve got another load supposed to be in tomorrow around noon.

“We’ve had supply problems before, but they didn’t seem to last as long as this one has.”

NC gas supply squeeze begins moving east from Asheville and Charlotte

There are reports today of sporadic gas shortages throughout the state, but the most serious problems are still in the west.

“In Asheville and Charlotte, we’re seeing a lot of stations completely out and waiting for delivery,” said Carol Gifford, spokeswoman for Charlotte-based AAA Carolinas.

“Stations are telling us they’re waiting for a delivery, but they’re not sure how much they’re going to get. There is some rationing [by distributors], trying to spread the limited supply around.

“There are long lines at some stations in Charlotte, and there are police at some stations. I’m not sure if retailers called them in or if local municipalities are doing it to control traffic because lines snake out into the streets and cause traffic problems.

“We’re just starting to hear about gas outages in the Greensboro area today,” Gifford said. The Greensboro News & Record reported that some Greensboro and High Point stations were out of regular and others were out of premium gas.

She urged North Carolinians to conserve gas and be patient until supplies improve.

“We want motorists to know it’s a temporary situation,” Gifford said. “Within a week to 10 days we should see much more supply available.

“Be conservative with your driving. That means right now you should consider cutting back significantly.

"The big thing is do not go purchase gasoline unless you really need it. If you are filling up or topping off now with anything over a quarter tank, you are taking gas away from people who really need it. People who may be on ‘E’ right now, running out of gas.”

NCDOT seeks comment on $1.1 billion Oregon Inlet bridge project

The state Department of Transportation is seeking public comment until Oct. 27 on a $1.1 to $1.4 billion project to replace Bonner Bridge on the Dare County Outer Banks.

A 1,300-page Environmental Impact Study was released this week, examining social, environmental and economic impacts of the project.

DOT wants to build a new bridge for N.C. 12 over Oregon Inlet, between Hatteras and Bodie islands, west of the existing bridge. Other parts of N.C. 12 would later be elevated onto a series of bridges.

DOT plans to award a design-build contract for the first phase next year, with construction to be finished by 2014 if funds are available.

To read the environmental impact statement and review maps, photos and other documents, go to DOT’s Bonner Bridge Web site at www.ncdot.org/projects/bonnerbridgerepairs/.  Copies also are available at libraries and other government offices in Dare County.

Send comments on the environmental document to NCDOT engineer Beth Smyre at 919-733-7844, ext. 333, or bsmyre@ncdot.gov.

Raleigh gets bus money

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole said today that Raleigh will receive a $2,805,600 federal grant to help buy land for a planned Capital Area Transit bus maintenance and operations center on Poole Road.

CAT has outgrown its 30-year-old maintenance garage on Blount Street, which was designed to handle 50 buses. Now with about 90 buses carrying more riders every month, the city transit agency is planning a new $20 million facility that can handle 150 to 250 buses.

“We’re hoping to move in the next two to three years,” said David Eatmon, city transit administrator. “We need to move now.” [Updated 4:50 pm]

The grant will cover about 80 percent of the purchase price for the planned 23-acre site. Raleigh will seek more federal money to help build the bus maintenance and operations center.

CAT buses carried 450,000 passengers in August, the agency’s busiest month on record.

Dole, who is up for re-election this fall, also said Greensboro will get $2 million to buy land for a new bus maintenance shop, and Fayetteville will get $1.6 million to buy buses and vans and to renovate its maintenance shop.

"Especially with high fuel prices, mass transit is playing an important role in supporting energy efficiency and providing people with transportation options,” said Dole.  “Strong transportation infrastructure also is vital to economic growth and job creation, and I applaud these cities for securing these funds.”

Tank up before you head for the hills

Patricia Burchett of Durham was unprepared for what she DIDN'T find after a recent drive to Asheville:

Gas.

Just returned from Asheville, wanted to see the beautiful casting of sunshine upon the golden leaves.

Why did my newspaper somehow fail to mention there is NO gas in many areas. Not a shortage - theres NONE. There has been none for TWO WEEKS. I traveled 49 miles before I was able to find enough gas to return home.

It would be a greater failure not to keep watch on this as MANY will and are on the way for this spectacular view. I witnessed dazed, confused and angry RV drivers.

The Associated Press reports that gas supplies are so low around Asheville that government agencies have curtailed non-emergency driving and some motorists are fighting each other to get at those precious pumps. No wonder Asheville's average price for regular has been so volatile lately, as high as $4.311 last week and still high today at $4.156.

A number of southern cities have the same problem. The Triangle has a few stations out of gas, but so far not enough to cause panic in the streets.

Several Gulf refineries, still out of commission in the wake of Hurricane Ike, are expected to resume production in the coming week.

Heading west to admire the fall scenery? 

Fill up before you leave home, and check the Asheville Citizen-Times, which is keeping track of the daily story on local gas supplies.

No free parking for the ethically handicapped

The abuse of handicapped-parking placards isn't just a downtown problem, and it isn't just a hassle for downtown shoppers.

It hurts mall shoppers and hockey fans, too.

Laird Tambling says he and his wife share Hurricanes season tickets with two other families. His wife has emphysema.

When they try to park near their seats on the west side of the RBC Center, even an hour before the game, they find that the small number of handicapped-reserved spots are taken already — some of them by people clearly in the prime of health. So the Tamblings have to park on the east side of the RBC, and it's a long difficult walk to reach their seats at the far end of the arena.

We've reduced our number of games this year (mainly because the price increased 50%), but may find that we won't renew next year at all because of the parking situation.

This is just an example, Bruce, of how people misusing the handicap parking hurts those who need it. It would be nice if those in charge would monitor the Handicap Card Users, like the Garner police, mentioned in your article. Anyone with a card is obligated to carry an ID card in their vehicle. If it doesn't match one of the people in the car, they should not be allowed to enter the area. . . .

So many handicapped placards, so few parking spaces

A lot of people are suspicious of some drivers who make use of handicapped parking placards but appear to be in robust health. This is a big issue in downtown Raleigh, and elsewhere.

Christine Trevillini’s daughter uses a wheelchair, and at Triangle Town Center she sometimes confronts healthy people who hog the handicapped spots.

They park their car in a handicap space with tag and walk the mall for over an hour. I know, I have followed them before. ...

They said they came to the mall for “exercise” prescribed by their doctor. And I said, “Then why did you park in the handicap place?” At that they ignored me and kept moving.

Lynn Carter’s job requires her to visit downtown Raleigh daily.

Every day over 40% of free spaces will be filled with cars with handicap stickers. I can’t believe ther are that many truly handicapped people doing busieness downtown every day. ... I don’t mind paying for parking, either, but far too often the public parking lots are full.

So what's the story from all you downtown Raleigh folks who use handicapped placards to park for free on the street all day?

Some of you have genuine handicaps. Some of you don't. I'd like to hear your side.

Please call me at 919-829-4527 or email me.

Meanwhile, for what it's worth, I see there is a website dedicated to this issue.

Before Johnston, Wake had the state's worst teen crash toll

Last year Johnston County had the state’s worst teen traffic death toll, with accidents in 2007 that killed 14 people aged 15 to 20 (10 drivers and 4 passengers).

Johnston lost two more young people in a crash this week.

Which county was North Carolina’s worst in 2006? Wake, which lost 9 drivers and 7 passengers in that tender age group, according to statistics from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

In 2005, it was Guilford County’s turn at the top of this unhappy list: 7 drivers and 6 passengers.

Over the past three years, 2005-07, Wake County crashes have killed a total of 26 young people aged 15 to 20 (tying Davidson County for the state’s worst three-year record). Johnston’s three-year total is 24.

Fortunately, Durham and Orange accidents have not claimed as many young lives. From 2005 through 2007, Durham and Orange each lost 4 people aged 15 to 20 in traffic crashes.

DOT finds lost money on lost highway

The state Department of Transportation stands to regain about $3 million a year in lost highway money when it returns Interstate 40 to its old route through Greensboro’s clogged, polluted Death Valley corridor.

Doug Galyon of Greensboro, chairman of the state Board of Transportation, cited complaints from Greensboro residents when he announced plans last week to remove I-40 signs from Greensboro’s new Urban Loop bypass.

Residents in neighborhoods near the bypass complained of losing sleep because of noisy nighttime truck traffic. I-40 motorists said they frequently lose their way on the eight-lane Urban Loop.

But DOT officials acknowledge that the deciding factor was a chance to restore federal interstate maintenance money that had been lost to the Greensboro area after the old Death Valley route was renamed Business 40 in February.

Lacy Love, DOT asset management director, said today the state will qualify for roughly $2.7 million to $3.2 million each year in additional federal money for repaving and repairs after it restores the interstate highway designation to the 15-mile I-40 route through Greensboro’s Death Valley.

The change, which will take effect later this year, also will mean a shorter journey for I-40 travelers. The new bypass added five miles to the odometer for every I-40 journey — although DOT stretched its mile markers to mask the difference.