State transportation officials announced Sept. 27 that federal and state lawmakers have taken so much money from the highway department that it is running out of funds to build roads.
Rising construction costs, which have climbed 62% in five years, helped contribute to the dwindling funds. Federal cutbacks, new restrictions on hampering private investments in toll roads and state diversions of gas-tax funds have suspended projects and could cancel others.
In this fiscal year, the Texas Department of Transportation will delay $965 million worth of road construction work.
“People need to understand that, within a very short time period, there will be no new capacity added,” said Texas Transportation Commission member Ned Holmes.
Unless a new way to add revenue is found, TxDOT will reach that point in a few years—and it will be much harder to add to lists of projects to widen roads.
Further worsening the situation, in 2011 and 2012 officials plan to cancel $865 million set aside for new road lanes and put it toward maintenance.
Regular maintenance is cheaper over time because it forestalls costlier reconstruction, said head TxDOT Amadeo Saenz.
“You might say we’re taking from peter to give to Paul,” Saenz said. “In the long run, we will lose less ground.”