Strategic Transportation Investments
Strategic Transportation Investments
North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the country. At the same time, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s major revenue sources – including the state gas tax and federal fuel tax share, the Highway Use Tax and DMV fees – no longer provide enough funding to pay for all the transportation improvements North Carolina needs to continue to thrive.
Passed in 2013, the Strategic Transportation Investments Law (STI) allows NCDOT to use existing funding more efficiently and effectively to enhance the state’s infrastructure, while supporting economic growth, job creation and a higher quality of life. This process encourages thinking from a statewide and regional perspective while also providing flexibility to address local needs.
STI also establishes the Strategic Mobility Formula, a new way of allocating available revenues based on data-driven scoring and local input.
NCDOT used the Strategic Mobility Formula for the first time to develop a draft of its 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) – a state- and federal-mandated requirement that identifies the construction funding for and scheduling of transportation projects throughout the state. (Learn more about the STIP.) The draft STIP was released in December 2014, followed by a public input period for NCDOT to gather feedback on the process used to develop the document.
In June 2015, the North Carolina Board of Transportation approved the draft, which was the final step in implementing the STI law.
The Benefit: By the Numbers
In its 10-year state transportation plan, NCDOT is able to fund 478 highway projects and support 300,000 jobs under the Strategic Mobility Formula. That's 300 more projects (a 273 percent increase) and 126,000 more jobs (a 172 percent increase) than what the old funding formula would have allowed.
Other projects funded in the state transportation plan include:
- 141 non-highway projects (e.g., ferry, aviation, rail, bike and pedestrian, etc.)
- 389 interstate maintenance and bridge projects
- 17 safety projects (e.g., turn lanes at intersections)
This data-driven approach yields one of the state’s most comprehensive STIPs ever, with 1,073 projects in all 100 counties, and across all modes of transportation for 2016-2025.
STIP Project Map
The interactive map below shows the projects included in the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
Zoom in to view projects. Click on the colored lines or icons for details about each one. Details include the project description, the amount of funding programmed, and its funding category under the Strategic Transportation Investments law, where applicable.
View larger map
Some examples of the critical connections made possible in the STIP under the Strategic Mobility Formula:
- Completing the Fayetteville Outer Loop to connect Fort Bragg to the strategic I-95 corridor to enhance mobility options for the military.
- Expanding U.S. 321 between Lenoir and Hickory to improve this key regional corridor and better connect the northwestern part of the state to Charlotte and I-85.
- Improving I-85 in Gaston County and removing the bottleneck in southern Rowan County to enhance this important route for travelers between the Triangle, Triad and the Charlotte area, as well as the Greenville-Spartanburg area.
- Expanding N.C. 211 to the coastal towns of Southport and Oak Island and improve their connection to the U.S. 17 corridor, which will help relieve congestion during the busy tourist season and improve an important evacuation route.
Several important projects did not score high enough for funding on the statewide level, but they did qualify for regional and division evaluation. Because of strong local input, they were successfully funded on the local level. Examples include:
- Widening N.C. 24/27 in Stanly County to four lanes from the existing four lanes in Albemarle to the Pee Dee River. The project also replaces one of the two bridges that connect Stanly and Montgomery counties. Its regional score was helped, because both the rural planning organization and division gave the project the maximum regional points.
- Building the Mid-Currituck Bridge between the Currituck County mainland and Corolla addresses local needs by alleviating congestion on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12. The bridge will also connect the Outer Banks to the Hampton Roads region in Virginia. The project was funded due to the successful coordination of both the rural planning organization and the division office.
In May 2014, NCDOT released data for nearly 3,100 projects for highway and non-highway modes (aviation, rail, bicycle and pedestrian, ferry and public transportation) across the state.
Division engineers, along with metropolitan and rural planning organizations, established clear methodologies for collecting public input and determining how to assign to potential projects "local input points," as required by law.
NCDOT combined the technical score and the local rankings to calculate a final score for each project. Those on the statewide level were scored based entirely on data.
NCDOT used these final scores – along with environmental and engineering information and adherence to the new STI rules and federal requirements –to create a draft of the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), encompassing nearly 1,100 projects.
After the release of the Draft STIP in December 2014, NCDOT hosted nine regional information sessions and one statewide information session between March 17, 2015 and April 23, 2015 to gather public input on the process that produced the Draft STIP. Nearly 160 people participated in these sessions. Feedback was also gathered using MindMixer, an online public engagement tool.
Based on the public feedback, the North Carolina Board of Transportation approved the Final STIP on June 4, 2015 – the final step in implementing the Strategic Transportation Investments law (STI).
NCDOT updates the STIP every two years to ensure it accurately reflects North Carolina's current financial situation. The STI law also mandates ongoing evaluation and improvement to ensure the process continues to be responsive to North Carolina’s diverse needs. A prioritization work group was established to examine the current process and develop recommendations for changes to strengthen the next iteration. These initial steps toward the next update of the STIP have already begun. (Learn more about strategic prioritization.)
While the Strategic Transportation Investments law (STI) allows NCDOT to make more efficient use of its existing revenue, only 1 in 5 (18 percent) of the 3,100 projects submitted for prioritization in 2014 can be funded over the next 10 years with current revenue resources.
Governor Pat McCrory's 25-Year Vision for transportation recognizes the need to pursue alternative funding solutions such as public-private partnerships and bond strategies that will allow us to take advantage of current low interest rates to deliver vital infrastructure improvements for North Carolina.
To that end, Governor McCrory has proposed two bonds of approximately $1.4 billion each, one for roads and one for public infrastructure. The North Carolina General Assembly has also proposed legislation to help address the department’s need for additional revenue.
Strategic Mobility Formula: How It Works
The Strategic Mobility Formula funds projects in three categories:
- Division Needs
- Regional Impact
- Statewide Mobility
Projects in this category will receive 30 percent of the available revenue, shared equally over NCDOT’s 14 transportation divisions, which are groupings of local counties. Project scores will be based 50 percent on data and 50 percent on local rankings by area planning organizations and the NCDOT transportation divisions.
Highway projects in this category are analyzed according to three criteria:
- Congestion (20 percent)
- Benefit/cost (20 percent)
- Safety (10percent)
This category will receive 30 percent of available revenue. Projects on this level compete within regions made up of two NCDOT transportation divisions, with funding divided among the regions based on population. Data makes up 70 percent of the project scores in this category. Local rankings will account for the remaining 30 percent.
Regional Impact projects are analyzed according to four criteria:
- Congestion (20 percent)
- Benefit/cost (25 percent)
- Safety (10 percent)
- Accessibility/connectivity (10 percent)
This category will receive 40 percent of available revenue. The project selection process will be based 100 percent on data.
Statewide Mobility projects are analyzed according to five criteria:
- Congestion (30 percent)
- Benefit/cost (30 percent)
- Economic competitiveness (10 percent)
- Safety (10 percent)
- Multimodal, freight and military (20 percent)
STI scoring, weights and criteria were developed in 2013 by a broad-based group of transportation professionals and stakeholders, and were later adopted by the North Carolina Board of Transportation and reported to the North Carolina General Assembly.
NOTE: Statewide Mobility projects are also analyzed separately in the Regional Impact and Division Needs categories and can be funded under those categories if they are not funded in the Statewide Mobility category. Regional Impact projects can also cascade down to the Division Needs category.
A project’s benefit/cost can improve when it is funded during the project submission phase through local entity contributions or tolling approved by the local planning organization. In addition, any area contributing to the project – and thereby reducing the cost to NCDOT – can receive back up to 50 percent of the funding for a subsequent project scored through STI.
To provide more flexibility, STI allows regions and divisions to develop alternate criteria tailored to their individual needs. To do so, the metropolitan and rural planning organizations and the NCDOT Divisions within the region must unanimously agree on the criteria.
Two regions, made up of NCDOT Divisions 1 and 4 and Divisions 2 and 3, chose to use this option and have developed alternate Regional Impact and Division Needs criteria.