“Very dire”: North Carolina lays off construction professionals as virus freeze decimates budget

Starved of traffic revenue, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has laid off hundreds of construction professionals, and delayed around 100 major projects – together worth more than $2bn – that were due to start in the next 12 months.

NCDOT said yesterday that it faces a $300m budget shortfall in the current fiscal year because traffic volumes have plummeted as people stay home to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The agency gets much of its cash from taxes on road use, fuel and other motoring fees.

Traffic on major highways is down by up to 50% in the state, transportation secretary Eric Boyette told local newspaper The News & Observer.

Around 300 temporary and embedded construction consultants would be laid off as the slate of next year’s scheduled projects is wiped clean, Boyette said.

Projects on hold range from local, million-dollar bridge replacements up to the $446.8m, eight-lane widening of the Interstate 95 highway in Cumberland and Robeson counties.

"It’s very dire," Boyette told the paper. "We don’t see an uptick."

In a memo to staff, Boyette wrote: "Because we do not know what form any potential assistance from our General Assembly or Congress will take, I have asked management to plan for the worst while we work for the best.

"Each business unit should plan for staffing to maintain only mission critical efforts – primarily health and safety."

Around 50 projects funded by bonds and federal grants will go ahead, as will projects underway or already awarded, NCDOT said.

Image: Empty road, Lake Norman, North Carolina (Photo by Leslie Cross/Unsplash)

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