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Highway budget advances local projects

State transportation funding reforms have accelerated the Balfour Parkway from U.S. 64 East to N.C. 191, widening of N.C. 191 from Hendersonville to Mills River, a White Street improvement and upgrade of Highland Lake Road from Greenville Highway to Spartanburg, Rep. Chuck McGrady announced Thursday.

McGrady and Gov. Pat McCrory said in news releases Thursday that the Legislature's decision this year to end the transfer of road money to the general fund had enabled the advance of numerous projects, including six in Henderson County and the I-26 connector in Asheville.

“The General Assembly made a significant investment in transportation infrastructure in its budget," Rep. McGrady said in a statement. There are no longer any diversions from the Highway Trust Fund, and doing away with the diversions resulted in more money that could be put towards roads and bridges across the State.”

In Henderson County, projects moving up included:

  • The Balfour Parkway, right of way moved up from 2024 to 2022.
  • N.C. 191 from Asheville Highway to N.C. 280, construction moved up from 2025 to 2024.
  • Old Airport Road from U.S. 25 to Mills Gap Road, construction moved up from 2021 to 2019.
  • White Street, realign and extend from Willow Road to Spartanburg Highway, new project, with construction in 2022.
  • Highland Lake Road, new project, upgrade from Greenville Highway to Spartanburg Highway.

The budget reforms passed during the 2015 legislative session ended the annual transfer of over $200 million from the Highway Fund to the General Fund. Over the next decade, the budget reforms should provide an additional $1.6 billion for infrastructure improvement projects, McGrady's office said.

“The reforms I signed into law will get these roads built sooner,” McCrory said in a news release. “The primary purpose of the reforms was to ensure transportation funds were being spent on transportation projects and not diverted to other state programs.”

State Sen. Tom Apodaca also applauded the acceleration of the projects but added that he was surprised that the House and governor were taking credit for something proposed in the Senate — the ending of the highway fund transfer to the general fund — and opposed at the time by the House and governor. McCrory "wanted to issue bonds to pay for the projects," Apodaca said.

The House, he said, had maintained the road fund shift to the general fund and proposed a varierty of license and DMV fee increases to pay for roads. The Senate ultimately prevailed on its idea of reserving all the Highway Fund money for roadwork. That also meant more money in the proposed $2 billion bond issue for state university and community college buildings and water and sewer system upgrades, Apodaca said, since highways are not part of the bond issue.