Could North Carolina’s roads soon come with corporate sponsors? The state Department of Transportation is launching a plan to generate revenue by selling advertising and naming rights on highway shoulders, rest areas, ferries, websites, and even those yellow Motorist Assistance Patrol trucks. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the DOT hopes to bring in a few million dollars a year through the program, which was approved Thursday by the state Board of Transportation. The state needs the money because the DOT’s main revenue source – gasoline taxes – isn’t growing as we drive less and cars become more fuel efficient.
CONSTRUCTION BRINGS ROAD CLOSINGS
A couple of NCDOT projects are affecting traffic in the Charlotte area this weekend. The left lane of the I-277 outer loop, between Exits 2 and 3 (between US 74 and 12th Street) is scheduled to be closed until 6 o’clock Monday morning so crews can fix a barrier wall damaged in a wreck last month. A lane of 10tyh St. under I-277 also will be closed.
And in Concord, the Poplar Tent Road overpass at I-85 is closed until 6am Monday while workers finish converting the road to a “diverging diamond interchange.” You can still take a right off the exit in either direction, but the overpass is closed. When Poplar Tent Road reopens tomorrow morning, the diverging diamond will be in its final pattern – with traffic in both directions crossing over to the left side of the overpass to make highway entry and exit easier. It’s one of four such interchanges under construction in the Charlotte region. Others are on NC 73 at I-85, Mallard Creek Road at I-485 and at I-77 Exit 28 in Cornelius.
STATE CONTRACTORS SKIRT LABOR RULES
Construction companies in North Carolina are breaking labor laws rules when it comes to hiring employees to build government-supported housing. The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer reported Sunday that more than one-third of third of workers on private companies' payrolls were classified as independent contractors instead of the way the law requires – as permanent employees. That costs the state and federal governments hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues. The report, titled “Contract to Cheat,” comes after a yearlong investigation by the two newspapers.
WINSTON-SALEM EXTENDS BENEFITS TO GAY MARRIED COUPLES
The Winston-Salem city government now offers employee benefits to same-sex couples who are married. The Winston-Salem Journal reports the city's human resources director sent a letter August 28 saying the city would recognize marriage licenses from any state or U.S. jurisdiction for benefits. Director Carmen Caruth says that includes opposite- or same-sex couples. Caruth cited a federal appeals court ruling that overturned a gay-marriage ban in Virginia and a recent statement by state Attorney General Roy Cooper that he would no longer defend the marriage amendment to the state constitution. The city set up an enrollment period that ends Oct. 31 for all qualified employees.
UNIONS TARGET FAIRPOINT LEADERS
Charlotte-based Fairpoint Communications is facing a challenge by unions in New England. Leaders of two unions representing more than 1,700 FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont say they're going after the CEO, board members and corporate owners for refusing to negotiate. The Communication Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers vowed to take their demonstrations "to a new level" by targeting company leaders and owners where they live and work. Last week, the unions picketed a New York event where FairPoint CEO Paul Sunu was speaking. Fairpoint sells Internet, phone and other services. The company ended negotiations on new contracts last month and has angered workers by implementing a new contract that workers don’t like.
PANTHERS OPEN AT TAMPA BAY
The Carolina Panthers open their NFL season this afternoon at Tampa Bay. The Panthers had 12 wins and four losses last year and won the NFC South division. Some key players are gone, including wide receiver Steve Smith and tackle Jordan Gross. The line in front of quarterback Cam Newton is back. Newton is still a question mark for today’s game, with a rib injury suffered a few weeks ago. Coach Ron Rivera will decide at game time if Newton starts. If he’s not ready, Derek Anderson will call signals. Kickoff is 4:25 PM, and the game airs on Fox.