A transportation trust fund for Sussex County road projects?
New Sussex County Planning and Zoning Chairman Marty Ross kicked off a July 13 workshop with that suggestion.
Ross said going forward it can’t be business as usual for road work in the county. “We have worked with the state and they have worked with us, and we have failed,” Ross said. “Our approach is not working. We have to address how we fix this problem,” he said, adding the county should take the lead in the planning process.
“We are stuck in a perpetual planning cycle, and we need to figure out how to break out of it,” Ross said.
One solution, he said, would be a county transportation trust fund separate from the state’s for projects deemed critical by county officials. Currently, the state owns all roads – outside of most private subdivision streets – and is responsible for all maintenance, repairs, improvements and new projects.
His fellow commissioners agreed to put the idea in the plan. “We will see how much push back it gets because it’s going to get some,” Ross said.
Commissioners met with Delaware Department of Transportation planners who in the past have written the plan’s mobility chapter, which has been rubber-stamped by county officials. That’s not the case this time around, Ross said.
Ross said once the plan is approved, county officials could get into the details of creating a trust fund with new sources of revenue, possibly including state matching grants. “We need to open doors and not close them,” Ross said.
He said possible revenue sources for the fund could be a new tax structure where part-time residents pay a higher rate, a rolling reassessment, special tax districts for transportation improvements and a requirement that any county general fund surplus be designated to the trust fund.
In addition, he said, DelDOT officials could be asked to develop a matching fund to support county road work beyond projects in their six-year capital plan.