Morrisville considers transportation task force

aramos@newsobserver.comAugust 1, 2013 

— In 2009, the town identified 38 road projects that would span 23 miles and cost $160 million to ease rush-hour traffic.

Town leaders expected much of the money for the upgrades would come from the state.

But after North Carolina adopted a new transportation funding formula that will likely put the most money toward statewide and regional projects, Morrisville is making plans to find alternative ways to pay for roads.

The Town Council will decide Aug. 27 whether to form the Blue Ribbon Commission of Transportation Funding.

The group would be made up of eight to 12 residents who would meet once a month or so. By the end of 2014, the commission would come up with recommendations on how to fund road projects.

If the council agrees to create the task force, the town would start recruiting members in September. Town leaders would likely seek people with expertise in transportation engineering, planning, project development, government and project finance.

“I’m looking for creative solutions,” said Mayor Jackie Holcombe. “There are some very bright folks in our area. I would expect that these very bright folks can come up with some creative solutions.”

In June, the Town Council approved a property tax increase of 2.35 cents per $100 of assessed value. The council dedicated .35 cents of the increase to road maintenance, an amount that is expected to generate about $120,000 a year in additional revenue.

But that’s not a lot money, considering Morrisville’s transportation needs. The town is between Cary and Research Triangle Park, and its main artery, N.C. 54, becomes a parking lot during rush hour.

“The town has continued to put more of our local funding into transportation needs,” said Holcombe, who has been the main proponent of the task force. “There is still a gap between what we have in our transportation plan and funding for the plan.”

Municipalities have a few options when it comes to paying for roads, said Ed Johnson, director of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which doles out millions in federal and state transportation dollars each year.

“At the end of the day it’s about using property taxes, impact fees, bonds and federal and state (grants),” Johnson said.

Morrisville could also join forces with private partners and developers to build roads. The town has done that before, when a developer helped build Town Hall Drive.

“It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with,” Johnson said. “What this thing gets down to is, how much are we willing to spend?”

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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