Elimination of the federal role in transportation would be “catastrophic” for states, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
McCrory, a Republican, told the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that he does not support devolving the federal transportation program to the states, an idea championed by many conservatives.
Rather, he said, states need the federal government to help connect economic regions, even when they cross into other states.
McCrory cited two needs in the eastern part of his state: connecting the port city of Wilmington to the resort city of Myrtle Beach, S.C., which are about 75 miles apart, and rural northeast North Carolina with the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, said that the economic needs of eastern North Carolina “do not recognize these political boundaries.”
“That’s why I think the federal government has to play a role, so we don’t have these logjams along the coast or connecting our major regions,” he said. “I want Myrtle Beach to do well. I want Wilmington and the rest of our coast to do well.”
McCrory said that North Carolina relies on federal funding for 28 percent of its transportation needs. The state has the second-largest highway system in the country, as well as the second-largest ferry system.
McCrory implored lawmakers to pass a long-term transportation bill this year. Congress has not passed a long-term bill in a decade, and has strung state departments of transportation along with a series of short-term extensions that hinder planning.
“Long-term investments in roads and bridges require long term planning,” he testified.
The current extension, enacted in August, will expire in just 10 weeks.
McCrory, testifying on behalf of the National Governors Association, said that states have gotten creative, spending their own funds more efficiently and finding alternate sources of funding, including tolls and bonds.
McCrory noted his state’s project to widen Interstate 77 north of Charlotte by tolling the new lanes. He also said the state would seek voter approval of a $1.2 billion transportation bond to take advantage of low interest rates and would look at the potential for revenue generated by offshore energy production.
However, he said North Carolina and other states still need help from the federal government.
“Despite our creative efficiencies,” McCrory said, “our efforts still fall far short of our needs.”