Editorial: Ready or not, here it doesn't come

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 12:53 PM

Someone should show the public the math that says the new formula for distributing transportation money will result in more projects because on its face, it just makes no sense at all.

Whether it will or won’t is now a moot point. The bill passed, and Gov. Pat McCrory signed it Wednesday, so right or wrong, here it comes. Or doesn’t, if the math is wrong -- or fictional.

Under the previous formula, the state distributed money equally among the state’s 14 transportation divisions. Let everyone acknowledge that is a “divide the baby equally” compromise because it is not possible that the 14 have equal needs. It is a given that the old formula was clumsy.

McCrory said during his campaign that the equal division of funds was unfair to the state’s large metropolitan areas because they have larger, more expensive projects, which used up all of a division’s funds and left nothing for smaller projects.

The new formula, now the law of the state, will send 40 percent of available money to projects of statewide importance, 30 percent to regional projects, and 30 percent to divide among the 14 divisions.

We have maintained from the outset that the end result is going to be a boon for the urban areas and their bedroom communities, and rural areas will get less than they did before. Here is our math: Under the old formula, even the rural divisions each got 114 of the money, which is 7 percent, but now they will get 114 of 30 percent of the money, which is 2 percent.

But the Department of Transportation insists that the new formula will result in nearly 50 percent more projects overall than the current plan.

That is not a typo: 50 percent.

That means that where the state may have gotten 1,000 projects done before, now it will get 1,500 done.

Undoubtedly, Charlotte and Raleigh could see 50 percent more projects because now their big projects of “statewide” significance and their medium-sized projects of “regional” significance will not compete within their divisions for the money needed for their smaller projects.

Question: How many projects of “statewide” or “regional” importance do you figure we have out this way? If you guessed zero, you are correct; that 5 percent that each division is losing is what is going to pay for the statewide and regional projects, which largely will be (we predict) in the urban areas.

That the new formula can translate to an overall, large increase in the number of projects defies logic. The same pot of money spread over 10 years is still the same pot of money. No, actually, that’s not accurate: State officials say the total amount of revenue is going to DROP by $1.7 billion over 10 years. So the state says it will do 50 percent more later with less than it has now.

That adds up to 0 percent sense.

Unless … Maybe those in the current crop of state officials are magicians, pulling money from road contractors’ ears. Though they have a shrinking pot of money, their sleight of hand will allow them to spread it around differently and get more done with it – and not just more, A LOT more.

Let’s all hope so.

But we doubt it.