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Wilmington Officials to Lobby State for Skyway Money

Officials from Wilmington's Transportation Advisory Committee are headed to Raleigh hoping to make the Cape Fear Skyway a step closer to a reality. The goal: persuading the North Carolina General Assembly to fund some if not all of the projected $439 million funding shortfall for the proposed $1 billion project.

The funding gap could be solved with a 40 year annual allocation of $39 million from the state's budget.

Backers of the Cape Fear Skyway aren't the only toll road proponents hoping to get some help from the General Assembly. The Raleigh-area Triangle Expressway needs an estimated $18 million annual investment from the state.

Currently, the General Assembly and the NC Senate have not agreed on let alone pass a new budget. A stop-gap funding bill has been passed allowing the government to continue to operate until July 31.

Funding for the Skyway may not occur in this session. However, if the budget includes funding for the Triangle Expressway, supporters of the Skyway will see that as a positive by the fact that the state legislature supports funding toll roads within the budget.

Lanny Wilson, who holds a number of titles, including: Chairman of the Wilmington Transportation Advisory Committee, Vice-Chairman of the NC Turnpike Authority, and is the area's representative on the NC Board of Transportation, has said that he expects the General Assembly to look at both the Triangle Expressway and the Skyway the same in regards to funding.

Supporters fear that a lack of a funding commitment now could kill the Skyway project.

Some proponents are already looking at other funding options to get the Skyway built. At a recent meeting, a motion was made to ask the NCTA to consider tolling part of the I-140 Wilmington Bypass to assist in funding the Skyway. Wilson, who called the idea "premature", tabled it.

Story:
Officials hope state aid Skyway plan ---Wilmington Star News

For More:
Consultants to NCTA - Cape Fear Skyway better than other proposals
Cape Fear Skyway Bridge tolls would only cover half the cost

Commentary:
Well, as expected, the Skyway group is going to ask the General Assembly for funding. The legislature has been very quiet on this matter in regards to the Triangle Expressway. With the General Assembly and the Senate in a heated budget battle -- questions on what to do over two temporary taxes which were enacted in 2001 and were agreed to be taken off the books this year -- the funding for the two toll projects have not received much attention.

Opponents of the toll roads see the silence from the legislature as a good sign. However, toll supporters may finally have the necessary information on feasibility and needs now that the Wilbur Smith Associates study for the NCTA has been completed.

The General Assembly and the Senate will take those findings in consideration. Along with the heavy lobbying from toll supporters and opponents alike.

The Cape Fear Skyway and Triangle Expressway appear to be along with the Monroe Bypass/Connector the top three priorities of the NCTA along with being recommended as the most feasible in the study. The need and the fact that the number one toll priority is in the State Capital's backyard will most like see funding for the top three materialize. However, projects like the I-74 Brunswick County toll road will most likely never see the light of day.

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