After several years of severe storms, expensive lawsuit settlements, overspending and now a pandemic, the N.C. Department of Transportation was forced to slash its budget and halt all road improvement projects — delaying at least 14 in Catawba County.
Western Piedmont Council of Governments Executive Director Anthony Starr said any project that did not already have a contractor hired to do construction was delayed. The projects in Catawba County were delayed anywhere from one to nine years, he said during a presentation to the Catawba County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting Monday night.
“I wish I had a presentation that delivers better news than I had tonight,” he said.
The delays relate back to four major expenses the NCDOT has faced in recent years, the most recent related to COVID-19, Starr said. Less road traffic and economic activity have decreased revenue to the NCDOT by an estimated $300 million for the fiscal year 2019-20 that ended in July, and another $370 million revenue loss is anticipated for this fiscal year, 2020-21.
The department also faced high costs from storm damage in recent years, Starr said. There has been $400 million spent on storm recovery and repairs in the last two years, well over the previous annual average of $66 million.
The state auditor also recently found that NCDOT overspent its budget by $742 million in fiscal year 2019. That’s an overage of about 12 percent.