ROADS/BRIDGES: Texas tentatively approves $3 billion for roads and bridges work

Figure nearly matches TxDOT and TTI’s approximation as reported by Roads & Bridges.

Funding News May 01, 2015
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The Texas State House of Representatives on Thursday voted 138-3 in favor of shifting more than $3 billion in existing revenue to non-toll roads. This is multibillion-dollar boost to the cash-strapped Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) would potentially arm the agency in its battle with a pervasively crumbling infrastructure. The vote echoes a similar decision this past March, when the state Senate approved a similar transportation enhancement of $2.5 billion or more each year.
 
This announcement comes on the heels of a recent article in Roads & Bridges’s new series, “DOT in Crisis,” concerning challenges facing state DOTs, notably Texas, where the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and TxDOT have determined that upwards of $ 4 billion is needed annually just to stay in line with state of good repair.
 
This lopsided vote signaled growing acceptance among lawmakers that transportation is an essential priority. “The proposals out there aren’t new,” said House Transportation Chairman Joe Pickett (D-El Paso). “But what we experienced—and I experienced—going across the state is that everyone needs and uses transportation infrastructure.”
 
Final approval by the House to this funding measure could come as early as today, thus enabling legislation, commensurate with the House and Senate bills’s reconciliation. Should this occur the road may well be smoother than one might expect, as the proposals bear distinct similarities: Both focus on sales tax revenue and both would require voter approval.
 
Texas’s state gasoline tax, paid at the pump, has stayed flat at a 20 cents per gallon since 1991, while the combination of inflation, vehicles’s increased fuel efficiency and other factors have truncated that gas tax money’s ability to stretch as far as it once did.
 
Texans helped fill the gap last year by approving a ballot measure to shift some tax revenue from oil and gas production, to the tune of $1.7 billion in 2015, to transportation. Moreover, lawmakers have sought to protect TxDOT’s highway fund by eliminating financial allocation diversions to other agencies.

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