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Gov. McCrory appoints fundraisers to board after candidate McCrory vowed not to

During his first campaign for governor in 2008, Republican Pat McCrory hammered his opponent, Bev Perdue, on her ties to major Democratic Party fundraisers on the state Board of Transportation.

McCrory vowed repeatedly in 2008 that he would never appoint his campaign fundraisers to transportation, university and other powerful boards if he was elected governor.

But that's what he just did after he won the 2012 election, The N&O's Bruce Siceloff reports.

McCrory administration taps Nick Tennyson for DOT post

Nick Tennyson, who was Durham's mayor for four years until 2001, will start work next month as one of two chief deputy secretaries at the state Department of Transportation.

As Transportation Secretary Tony Tata's chief deputy for support, Tennyson will take charge of developing a new statewide 25-year infrastructure plan, which was one of Gov. Pat McCrory's priorities for DOT. He'll step down from a job he has held for 18 years as executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham counties.

"This is an opportunity to have a real impact on the future of North Carolina," Tennyson said. "This is really a continuation of work that I got started on when I was mayor, to try to get people to think about the near future. Twenty-five years seems like a long time to a lot of people ..., but we need to think how quickly 25 years will arrive."

Tennyson, 63, a Republican, will start work April 1 at a salary of $123,000. His new position puts him on equal footing with DOT's chief deputy secretary for operations, Jim Trogdon. He'll oversee the Division of Motor Vehicles, finance, intergovernmental affairs, planning and information technology. --Bruce Siceloff, staff writer

Transportation Secretary Gene Conti gets national transportation award

North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti has been honored with a national award for outstanding contributions to highway engineering.

Conti was presented the Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award, the highest designation of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, during the group's annual meeting in Pittsburgh earlier this week.

House budget hikes ferry tolls, tightens rail controls and helps roads

Transportation spending changes approved this morning by a House budget subcommittee would cut state ferry appropriations by $10 million a year and require tolls on all ferries; put new restrictions on the state’s ability to accept federal rail grants; and focus more transportation spending on roads and bridges. ... [MORE]

Five House Republicans would kill rail money for their home counties

Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte is not alone in pushing legislation to kill federally funded railroad projects worth tens of millions of dollars in his home county.

Killian has signed up a dozen fellow Republicans to help sponsor a bill that would have the state Department of Transportation give back $461 million in federal railroad improvement funds, and bar it from seeking federal high-speed rail money for any project that has not been approved by the legislature.

The $461 million includes money that would be spent in counties represented by Killian and four of his co-sponsors from Cabarrus, Rowan and Davidson counties.

The House Transportation Committee will consider Killian's kill bill today. ... [MORE]

Killian would kill $152 million for Mecklenburg's rail projects

Over at his Crosstown Traffic blog, Dome's colleague and occasional correspondent Bruce Siceloff has listed a county-by-county breakdown of the rail projects at risk if the state turns down the federal railroad funds coming its way.

Siceloff points out that Mecklenburg county stands to benefit the most — with the lion's share headed for Charlotte. However, the Queen City's own representative, Republican Ric Killian, has launched a "just say no" campaign to those federal funds. Read Siceloff's original story on Killian's efforts here, and the county-by-county funding list here.

Republicans to Perdue: Give back that half-billion dollars in federal fast-train money

As the administration of Democrat Gov. Bev Perdue prepares to start spending $461 million in federal fast-train grants (see today’s story with reader comments),  Republicans in the General Assembly want North Carolina to give the money back. All of it.

Reps. Ric Killian of Charlotte and Phillip Frye of Spruce Pine, Republican co-chairs of a House subcommittee that oversees transportation spending, filed legislation Monday that would order Perdue’s Department of Transportation not to ..

apply for, accept, or expend any grant funding from the federal government for any high-speed rail project unless the project has been approved through an act of the General Assembly.

DOT would face penalties, losing Highway Fund money, if it disobeys the ban.

The Federal Railroad Administration is expected in the next day or so to formally commit $461 million in federal stimulus grants -- so NCDOT can start accepting bids -- for 24 projects to build more tracks and bridges and make other rail improvements between Raleigh and Charlotte. ... [MORE]

Gene Conti and Bill Clinton, his ex-boss, chat about weight loss

Gene Conti almost missed his get-well call from an old boss, former President Bill Clinton.

The North Carolina transportation secretary has been away from the office, recuperating after surgery Dec. 20 at Duke Hospital. He was about to leave home Wednesday afternoon on an errand with his wife, Betsy, when the phone rang.

Don’t answer it, Betsy said. Let’s go.

Instead, she tapped her foot while her husband chatted with his caller for about five minutes. Yes, Gene said into the phone, my doctors have had me on a weight-loss program, too. I’m walking a treadmill, just like you did.

“Who was that?” Betsy asked when he finally hung up. ...

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