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Lapsley to help draft long-range transportation investment strategy

As a civil engineer, Bill Lapsley drew up miles of roads. As a county commissioner, he’s heard from motorists who would like wider roads and homeowners who hate the thought of them.

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And as chair of a regional transportation planning agency, he has plunged deep into the arcane world of transportation funding under state and federal law.

One part politician and two parts policy wonk, Lapsley has been rewarded by the state transportation secretary, who appointed him to a new commission to recommend how North Carolina can modernize its transportation investment strategy.
Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon announced last week that the newly formed commission would research how emerging technologies, shifting behavior patterns and changing demographics affect the state’s transportation investment system and develop ways to meet the need for critical resources in the future.
“My sense is that with the increasing number of hybrid cars and electric cars and people being a little more cautious about mileage and driving that the total dollars of gas tax money is not keeping up with inflation in the cost of roads,” Lapsley said this week. “My sense is he’s trying to figure out some other approach that North Carolina should be using.”
The N.C. Future Investment Resources for Sustainable Transportation Commission (NC F1RST Commission) convenes on May 3 and plans to work for about 18 months on recommendations for changes to North Carolina’s current transportation investment strategy.
“The transportation industry is on the cusp of fundamental changes that will forever change our relationship to moving goods and people,” Trogdon said in a news release. “The work the NCF1RST Commission will do will be critical for the economic vitality of North Carolina.”
Founder and president of William G. Lapsley & Associates, Lapsley provided general civil engineering services for residential and commercial land development, industrial development and local government infrastructure throughout Western North Carolina for more than 40 years. He was elected in 2014 to the Board of Commissioners in 2014 and re-elected last year. A former chair of the Pardee Hospital Board of Directors, Lapsley is currently on the Board of Directors of UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill. He serves as the county commission’s liaison for the county Board of Health and Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, the regional agency that sets priorities for state and federal transportation spending.
When Trogdon’s office checked with sources in the Legislature and at the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, Lapsley’s name kept coming up. Being close to the process will be a benefit, Lapsley predicted, on a board that also includes academics and other experts.
“I think it’ll bring real world experience with road construction and transportation improvement projects into the view of the people on the committee,” he said. “I’m in the dirt so to speak on these things and hopefully it’ll have some impact on the recommendations that the commission comes up with.”
Lapsley and Brenda Lyerly, the mayor of Banner Elk, are the only commission members from Western North Carolina. There is another Hendersonville connection on the NCF1RST board though. Peter Hans, the president of the North Carolina Community College System, is a 1987 graduate of Hendersonville High School. Lapsley made sure that the transportation secretary in a Democratic administration knew his philosophy.
“I did not point out, ‘You understand, I’m a Republican,’ and they said, ‘This is not a political assignment. This is for the good of the people of North Carolina.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m there then.’ I didn’t want to mask anything and get in a clash,” he said.
Other members are Duke professor Ronnie Chatterji; Janet Cowell, the former state treasurer and CEO of Girls Who Invest; Jesse Cureton, executive vice president of Novant Health; Stephen DeMay, Duke Energy’s N.C. president; Charlotte mayor pro tem Julie Eiselt, Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane, Ward Nye, president/CEO of Martin Marietta; N.C. State University professor Michael Walden, and Patrick Woodie, president of the N.C. Rural Center.