After months of cutting back on everything from fixing roadways and bridges to mowing grass, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has now stabilized its finances. In fact, according to Bobby Lewis, NCDOT’s chief operating officer, the department has been able to resume its engineering work on approximately 220 projects, with another 240 expected to begin again by the end of May.
Major projects that have already picked back up include the conversion of Capital Boulevard into a freeway between I-540 and Durant Road, as well as the repaving of 4 miles of I-40 in Cary.
Our office has been following the financial crisis since August which forced NCDOT into laying off and reducing its contractor workforce by between 500-900 people and suspending its preliminary engineering on approximately 900 projects. At the time, this accounted for more than half of the 1,700 state projects that were pending.
Unexpected Severe Weather
The state’s financial crisis has been attributed to unexpected severe weather (i.e. Hurricane Florence) and the accompanying recovery efforts as well as settlement expenses related to the Map Act litigation. Over the past 16 months, NCDOT has spent almost $400 million on storm-related cleanup and repairs. On average, the department has spent about $66 million annually.
NCDOT has requested $85.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the costs of cleaning and repairs from damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. As of Dec. 31, 2019, the state was still waiting to be reimbursed $19.5 million.
On top of that, NCDOT is also waiting to be reimbursed more than $88.5 million for costs associated with the cleanup and repairs needed after Hurricane Florence in 2018.
However, it has been our firm’s belief that the true reason for the department’s financial instability was the decentralization of engineering work at the DOT, which has transpired over the past several years.
New Bill, New Protections
Luckily, in November, the General Assembly’s new bill was passed and implemented, providing $200 million for disaster relief and new construction as well as the directive that NCDOT create an emergency reserve fund to be used in areas that the president declares a disaster. The bill requires NCDOT to begin each year with $125 million in the fund (with money from the operations and maintenance budget).
As for the Map Act, the state has paid $558 million to property owners affected by it and estimates that it will pay out another $179 million to settle the remainder of cases.
Lewis anticipates that NCDOT’s finances will be back to normal by September or October – assuming there are no severe natural disasters.
Henson Fuerst Can Help
The eminent domain and land condemnation lawyers of Henson Fuerst represent property owners across the State of North Carolina in land condemnation matters. If you have questions or for more information, call us at (919) 781-1107 today.