North Carolina Department of Transportation Chief Operating Officer Bobby Lewis said last week that the agency will lay off hundreds of transportation department workers in response to the states struggles to pay lawsuit settlements and extraordinary storm recovery costs.

Lewis said officials are also scouring the payroll for temporary and contract work that can be put off, while layoffs will likely hit road-planning contractors, inspectors, and temporary laborers. Lewis said the agency hopes to hire the workers back later.

The money the agency is expected to save is needed to catch up on cleanup and repair work from last year’s Hurricane Florence, and a backlog of work from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

But the shortfall is due to more than just epic weather. The state also is scrounging for cash to settle hundreds of lawsuits in a land-takings case.

The state’s Supreme Court recently threw out North Carolina’s “Map Act,” which let the state prevent development on some land set aside for future roadbuilding without actually buying it. In some cases, the state would hold land for decades, leaving owners unable to develop or sell it.

The state is now on the hook for the lost value of the property and damages. It’s already paid about $300 million and may end up paying more than $1 billion. (THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER)