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NC Mayors to Trump: Help Us Pave Way to Progress

Leaders from cities such as Durham and Raleigh are asking Washington for more support in developing public transit options. (James Willamor/flickr)
Leaders from cities such as Durham and Raleigh are asking Washington for more support in developing public transit options. (James Willamor/flickr)
January 29, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. — North Carolina mayors are joining others across the country to let Washington know about roadblocks in their pursuit of growth due to a lack of funding for infrastructure and transportation projects.

Mayors from Asheville, Rocky Mount, Durham, Raleigh and other North Carolina cities spent last week in Washington for the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors annual conference. Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said funding for infrastructure goes beyond more roads and repaired bridges.

"Every time we build a road, it fills up,” Schewel said. “We're either going to take people off the roads and have a multi-model system of transportation in North Carolina or we're going to be stuck in gridlock forever. "

Durham is planning a light rail project, but will need additional federal funding to complete it. The fund that currently pays for most federal highway and transit is projected to be out of money in roughly three years unless more funding is authorized.

President Trump is expected to address the issue of infrastructure in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said it's important for North Carolina's residents to understand that a smooth ride to work or school doesn’t happen without effort.

"They don't really think about it,” McFarlane said. “They get in their car and they drive on the roads and they're able to get where they need to go and get to work, and all of those things are part of a great quality of life, certainly, that we provide in Raleigh."

Nationwide, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the country will gain nearly 26 million new residents by 2020, an increase of about 8 percent. But North Carolina is expected to grow faster - at a rate of 11 percent.

Schewel said the projected growth of North Carolina over the next two decades mandates the attention of the federal government.

"Durham is going to grow by 140,000 people in the next 20 years. Raleigh is going to be growing by even more than that; our other cities are growing tremendously,” he said. “We're either going to have a transportation system that meets the needs of that growth, or we're not going to be able to move on our highways at all."

Stephanie Carson/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - NC