Published Somedays

More Taxes, More Traffic

(updated: Jun 24, 2009)

From the Star News today:

Bill in Senate would allow Wilmington to schedule vote on sales tax hike

By Patrick Gannon

Published: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 9:02 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 9:02 a.m.

Congestion relief is no longer a job for cold medicine alone.

Wilmington taxpayers might get a chance to vote on whether to support an additional half-cent sales tax to be used for “automotive congestion mitigation purposes,” according to a bill making its way through the General Assembly.

Sponsored by state Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, Senate Bill 222 would allow the city to hold a referendum on an additional tax on purchases to pay for traffic congestion projects. If passed, the tax would generate about $8 million a year and expire after seven years, transportation officials said. The projects would be identified and costs estimated before the vote, according to the bill.

The bill is being pushed by Coastal Carolina Tomorrow, a group of Wilmington-area real estate and development professionals formed in 2007. Group members met with Boseman in recent weeks to work on the legislation, which is currently under consideration in the state House.

Montell Irvin, president and chief executive officer of Ramey Kemp & Associates in Raleigh, is a Coastal Carolina Tomorrow member. He pointed out there’s no shortage of traffic complaints from area motorists, but there is a shortage of state dollars to address them.

“If that is a major issue, this is a way to make it work,” Irvin said of the extra tax.

The tax, he said, wouldn’t replace traditional transportation funding, but supplement it. Coastal Carolina Tomorrow envisions the tax revenue paying for a series of projects – perhaps as many as 10 – such as new turn lanes, intersection improvements, smaller transit projects and perhaps crosswalks or bicycle improvements.

A commission would be formed that would host public meetings to solicit ideas for projects and then prioritize them. It’s unlikely the referendum would end up on this year’s election ballot, but next year is a stronger possibility.

Because of the economy, construction costs are down and the tax could stretch much farther these days.

“If you ask me, the sooner the better,” Irvin said.

Already, however, there is some debate over what the money would pay for.

Lanny Wilson, who represents the Wilmington area on the N.C. Board of Transportation, said he would support an additional tax, but only if it would support larger road-construction projects already identified by transportation planners as priorities. Specifically, he mentioned the extension of Military Cutoff Road to Interstate 140 and the extension of Independence Boulevard to the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

“Those are the projects that have been identified in the region as the ones that would have the biggest impact on reducing congestion,” Wilson said.

He said he planned to bring up the issue at a meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Lord Spencer Compton Conference Room at Wilmington City Hall, 102 N. Third St.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said he supports the bill because the projects would be identified beforehand and the tax would expire after seven years. Saffo spoke on behalf of the bill before a House committee in Raleigh last week.

“At the end of the day it’s the voters who decide whether they want it or not,” Saffo said.

Patrick Gannon: 343-2328

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. What is the likelihood of getting bike lanes along the extension of Military Cutoff? And if so, what use would it be if it throws you into 140? Check out the alternatives for the extension below. It looks like all highways to me. Will you be able to bike all the way up to Hampstead and avoid Market? Will Market St. become less congested, leading the way to increased bike use?

I'd vote for it, but I am very wary that this is a car-only bill, with little for pedestrians and cyclists. And what good does creating more roads do? It facilitates more driving and ultimately creates more traffic, defeating the intention of the bill in the first place. It's like telling an overweight person to lose weight by loosening their belt. Through a tax hike you would be subsidizing more driving, which further cements our dependence on foreign oil.

Times have changed. People don't realize that business as usual is over. Like the movie The Sixth Sense, I see dead people.

So here's a much better idea: Use the money to fund a metro rail project, with two main lines, one along Market St. from downtown to Hampstead and the other along College and down to Carolina Beach. It pretty much covers the county, which is fairly small, and would make Wilmington an amazing place to live and work. Until then I see little hope for Wilmywood.

Click on image to download larger PDF.

Filed Under: General Entries > North Carolina > Wilmington


1. sir btk said...

everything on here is always to much for me to read, it takes to long

Jun 24, 2009 @ 7:59 PM

2. MLB said...

I've been an advocate for the Metro Rail idea for quite some time. Place the focus on rails, trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes to reduce the need for local automobile travel instead of building more roads to accomodate more cars. It seems like we prefer to treat the symptoms rather than find a cure for the disease?? We need to get with the program and make Wilmington a model for alternative transportation!

Jun 24, 2009 @ 8:50 PM

3. Let's Walk and Shrink America said...

MLB has a crazy almost unpatriotic idea for this country. I totally agree we should focus on public transportation. However even installing the best public transit system in the world wouldn't work here. The bus is actually not bad for the south. The problem is that people aren't accustomed to it. It would take a generation of "reteaching" for lack of a better word. People are used to getting in their cars and not breaking a sweat or risking having to sit next to one of the undesirables on the bus.

Ride Fast Live Slow

Jun 30, 2009 @ 7:53 PM

4. MindTrik said...

LOL...the answer is NO...NEVER trust a politician when they say things like "expire after seven years"...because they LIE. I cannot continue to support stuff like this because of the lies told about expiring taxes.

Jul 6, 2009 @ 10:55 AM

5. Politicians are Swell said...

Bike lanes and city wide initiatives to walk/ride or use public transit are cheap. Programs like Seattle's Yellow Bike program have been done in different forms across the world. These programs have cleaned up the local environment and made money; when was the last time a politician did either of those? Between a gas crisis and a recession, if they don't think it's a priority now they never will. We'll be living in a "Perhaps bike trails" world until their SUV's become decepticons and kill them.

Ride Fast Live Slow

Jul 7, 2009 @ 8:24 PM

6. SBA said...

How about doing what Boulder, CO does, and commit 10% of their entire annual transportation budget to cycling and pedestrian use? Do it at the local and state level. Then watch as your society transforms itself into a sustainable and healthy cycling-friendly one.

Jul 7, 2009 @ 8:36 PM


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