Previously, I have fired off a couple of salvos at Senator Clark Jenkins over his defense of the Board of Transportation's control of discretionary funds and the Highway Trust Fund equity formula that gives rural areas in the north-east and western areas of the state greater funding per capita for big road projects than the increasingly congested cities and towns of the Piedmont. Both of those spending boondoggles are bad news for North Carolina.
But give credit where it is due, for today Jenkins fired off a caustic broadside at DOT officials for their lack of progress in changing their dysfunctional organization.
"Dancing around the issues is not enough," said Jenkins responding to a vague hour long presentation to the Prioritization sub-committee of the 21st Century Transportation Committee by a succession of DOT officials outlining the progress, or rather the lack of it, of DOT changing into something resembling reliable and efficient.
"Until we see changes…not one more dime," Jenkins concluded, prefacing those remarks with the observation that his views were those of the Senate leadership.
Answering the Senator's question of what one thing DOT would like to help fix the mess it finds itself in, Roberto Canales, leader of the transformation team at DOT replied, "Time. It is a deliberate process. It needs time."
All this only points one way. Not a penny extra for DOT until at least next year. Any talk of a transportation bond vote in November is reckless and flies in the face of what we know about DOT and the out-of-whack project prioritization process we currently have.
We need more and better mass transit services, not just in the Triangle and the Triad, but in regional cities like Asheville and Wilmington. We need to better align land use and transportation planning. Finally, and critically, we need to get politics out of the road business, so that expenditure is based on need and use, not political favors, speculation and blind hope that the appearance of asphalt will spur an economic renaissance in depressed areas.
Until the DOT gets it together and the priorities are right, forget the dime. Not one penny more.