Monday, November 9, 2009

Hey DOT: Finish what you started

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 1:03 PM


click to enlarge P1020983
Gov. Bev Perdue is planning to announce some sort of super secret funding plan that will allow the Department of Transportation to finish the I-485 loop, which they began building more than 20 years ago.

Officials said Sunday that Perdue is scheduled to reveal the financing method that would pay for the last segment of the loop, between N.C. 115 and Interstate 85 in northeast Charlotte. The price tag is estimated at $220 million.

The financing method has never been used in North Carolina, and it won't touch money set aside for scheduled improvements to Independence Boulevard or any other local project, according to Chrissy Pearson, Perdue's press secretary and a city official who didn't want to be identified.

Charlotte Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx, said he didn't know many details of the funding plan. But he said completing the loop would "not only help with mobility in the region" but also help repair historically strained relations between Charlotte and state leaders in Raleigh.

Outgoing Mayor Pat McCrory - who was Perdue's Republican opponent in last year's election - said Sunday he didn't have many details, either. But he said he was proud of the teamwork between city and state officials that led to today's announcement.

He said he was pleased the plan would "make sure the project is not completed by stealing money from other projects. The governor's office heard that message loud and clear."

Construction on the 65-mile loop began in 1988 and was scheduled to be finished by 2003. But delays and competition for money from other cities kept pushing out the completion date.

The delays came as Charlotte's population and traffic multiplied, infuriating drivers and feeding a lingering sense that the city gets shortchanged by state leaders in Raleigh.

Read the rest of this Charlotte Observer article here.

UPDATE: Perdue to DOT: Get 'er done. No word yet on how many transportation construction company CEOs passed out when they heard the news.

Perdue announced the plan during a news conference on an unfinished portion of the outerbelt, saying the roadway could be finished by 2014 or 2015.

She said the proposal is innovative for North Carolina but has been used elsewhere in the country.

The plan -- called design-build-finance -- offers a streamlined schedule for construction of the unfinished section of the loop, between N.C. 115 and Interstate 85 in northeast Charlotte. The price tag is estimated at $220 million.

"This plan saves time, saves money for North Carolina taxpayers ... and shows that North Carolina can and will develop new ways of moving forward," Perdue said.

Typically, she said, road projects are design-build, with the contractor responsible for designing and building the roadway. Under the plan announced Monday morning, contractors also would help pay for the construction before being reimbursed.

State officials had said completing the outerbelt soon would be impossible, because the state did not have money for the project.

In the morning news conference, Perdue said she told state officials earlier this year to find a solution for the budgeting problem. "I said simply, 'I want it done -- and the people of North Carolina want it done,' " she said.

Read more.

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