After severe storms, expensive lawsuit settlements, overspending and now a pandemic, the North Carolina Department of Transportation was forced to slash its budget and halt all road improvement projects.
Included in the list of projects to be put on hold, the Highway 127 expansion to four-lanes in Bethlehem. The long overdue widening and construction of a second bridge over Lake Hickory was to happen in 2023. Now the project is slated for 2026.
The delay relates back to four major expenses the NCDOT has faced in recent years, the most recent related to COVID-19. Less road traffic and economic activity have decreased revenue to the NCDOT by an estimated $300 million for the fiscal year 2019-20 that ended in July, and another $370 million revenue loss is anticipated for this fiscal year.
The department also faced high costs from storm damage in recent years, Starr said. There has been $400 million spent on storm recovery and repairs in the last two years, well over the previous annual average of $66 million. One of those storm-related projects is the still-closed section of Liledoun Road in Alexander County. The closure dates back to June of 2019. A storm washed out a culvert. Within the last two-weeks, the repair has began.
The state auditor also recently found that NCDOT overspent its budget by $742 million in fiscal year 2019.