Transportation one of our biggest state issues

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Sitting in traffic Tuesday morning waiting for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge to lower so I could get moving, I was mulling over column ideas.

I was listening to parents call and complain about the failing public schools system in North Carolina on local talk radio. But I didn’t feel like writing about the school system.

As traffic finally began moving again, I was still searching the inner corners of my brain for an idea. My goal was to have my column all but written by the time I arrived at work. If only I could find the inspiration I needed, I would be set.

As I slowly meandered across the bridge and toward Leland, I noticed the usual back-ups coming into Wilmington from Brunswick County. At least I was driving into Brunswick County, unlike all those poor folks stuck in not only their usual congestion, but the bridge had been up, I noticed one wreck slowing things down, and one other car that was pulled over causing even more tie-ups.

Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see and it didn’t seem like there was any relief in their future. It was just before 9 a.m., and I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would be late for work that morning.

I can’t even count how many times I have heard people in Brunswick County and all of Southeastern North Carolina complain about the North Carolina Department of Transportation, its ever-increasing budget shortfalls, lack of work being done in our part of the state and countless other gripes.

“Why is our gas tax so high if DOT isn’t building any roads?”

I hear this question over and over, but I don’t know the answer.

But there are people who should know the answer, and you can find their names on the ballot come May 6.

Candidates for governor will be at the Schwartz Center at Cape Fear Community College for a candidates’ forum Thursday evening.

Go—ask the candidates your questions.

The forum is free and open to the public and kicks off at 6 p.m.

But for an hour before the forum the candidates will be on hand ready to answer your questions.

Ask them why our gas tax is so high, yet traffic is backed up for miles going over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge?

Ask them where all the money from the gas tax is going, and why it isn’t coming back to Southeastern North Carolina?

More importantly, ask them what they plan on doing about it.

For years I have heard candidates say they will stop the raiding of the highway trust fund to balance the state’s general fund.

Has anything been done about it?

It’s not just the gubernatorial candidates who should have the answers to your questions. Hear what the candidates for state representative and state senators plan to do about the habitual raiding of the highway trust fund. They’ll likely say they plan to put and end to it, but ask them how.

County commissioners candidates should also have a say in the transportation conundrum. OK, so they might say it’s out of their hands, but it’s not.

Ask them if they support public-private partnerships for transportation improvements, impact fees, bond referendums or other taxing options to supplements DOT projects.

The answers are out there—you just have to find the candidate with the right one.

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com.