Gov. Roy Cooper named a new Secretary of Transportation on Tuesday and chose someone who knows the Triangle well.
Joseph “Joey” Hopkins has spent more than 30 years at NCDOT, all of it in the Triangle. Hopkins began his career in the division office that covers Wake and Durham counties, eventually becoming the top engineer there. He moved to NCDOT headquarters in Raleigh and in 2022 was named the department’s chief operating officer.
On Oct. 1, Hopkins will replace Eric Boyette, who became secretary in February 2020. Boyette had worked at NCDOT for many years and was Secretary of the Department of Information Technology when Cooper chose him to replace Jim Trogdon.
Boyette is retiring after 27 years with the state, according to Cooper’s office.
“I’m deeply grateful for his hard work and commitment to the people of our state,” Cooper said in a written statement. “I’m confident that Joey Hopkins will continue this outstanding work as Secretary of the Department of Transportation when he steps into this new role a few weeks from now.”
Hopkins takes over a department that is more financially stable than it was a few years ago. Two major hurricanes, Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018, had done hundreds of millions in damage to roads. Meanwhile a Supreme Court decision in 2016 nullifying the Map Act, a state law that allowed NCDOT to reserve land for future highways without buying it, led to settlements with property owners that cost hundreds of millions more.
At the same time, NCDOT had been aggressively paying down a cash balance at the direction of the General Assembly by increasing the pace of construction projects. That accelerated spending, combined with the added expenses from the storms and the Map Act, caused NCDOT to run short on money in 2019, resulting in cutbacks and delays in engineering work on hundreds of construction projects.
NCDOT has been able to build up its cash reserves. But rising costs for real estate, materials and labor have slowed construction, making it difficult to finish existing projects on time and take on new ones.