Fewer workers making daily commutes means less funding for NC’s bridges, roads


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – If you had to get anywhere at the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, there was much less of a chance you’d get stuck in traffic.

But, the lack of that same traffic meant less revenue, including people filling up and paying the gas tax.

Funds from the gas tax go to build, maintain and repair North Carolina’s roads and bridges.

“A lot of problems and questions that we’ve been kicking down the road for a long time suddenly jumped up and hit us in the face,” said Patrick McHugh.

McHugh serves as the Budget and Tax Center Research manager at the North Carolina Justice Center.

“If we don’t embrace this opportunity to think about how to fix some of our longstanding problems we’re going to come out of this recession more divided, more unequaled and less economically resilient than we were before the pandemic,” said McHugh.

Many higher-income workers will never return to the pre-pandemic commute.

Corporations are finding productivity hasn’t been affected and it is cheaper to have employees work from home or just come into the office a few days a week.

That means those folks will be paying less into the transportation system, leaving part of the burden on everyone else.

“Sectors that we saw were really hard hit both by layoffs and then for folks who had to continue working on the front lines of COVID exposure during the crisis. These are people who aren’t going to be able to do their job from home,” said Senior Policy Analyst with the North Carolina Justice Center Logan Harris.

“So the single biggest thing that we can do to address the transportation funding issue in this state is to make sure that people who need to go into work who are working in often vital jobs where you have to be in person don’t have to travel an hour more a day to get to work and back,” said McHugh.

But convenient affordable housing won’t alone solve the bigger issue of how to find the billions needed to sustain our roads, highways, and bridges.

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