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TxDOT director: Agency needs $4 billion more for roads, maintenance
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013
FORT WORTH — The Texas Department of Transportation needs an additional $1 billion a year to keep up with maintenance on 80,000 miles of roads in the state, the agency’s executive director said Thursday.
Phil Wilson told a group of officials Thursday that TxDOT also is likely to need an additional $3 billion a year to deal with growing congestion on interstates and other roads.
Lawmakers, who started their biennial legislative session this week, have already said Texas will need to tackle road financing as the state’s population grows.
TxDOT, which currently has a $10 billion annual budget, relies on a 20-cents-a-gallon fuel tax that hasn’t been raised since 1991. State officials say they’ll soon run out of money for any construction or expansion without changes.
Among some proposals, the top ideas appear to be rededicating sales tax revenue on vehicle purchases to TxDOT or adding $50 to the annual vehicle registration fee. Other proposals include ending diversions from the gas tax revenue and taking $1 billion from the state “rainy day fund” to create a highway infrastructure bank.
Wilson, speaking at a 35W Coalition meeting at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, declined to offer support for any specific funding proposals, The Dallas Morning News reported. But he said “there’s a lot of desire” from the House, Senate and governor to address infrastructure needs.
Wilson did offer backing for a couple of broader proposals that could affect TxDOT’s financial standing.
He said he hoped the Legislature would continue to approve public-private partnerships, such as the southern 41 miles of the Texas 130 tollway, which opened Oct. 24. Those efforts, known as comprehensive development agreements, typically feature managed toll lanes and allow for expedited project timelines.
Wilson also said the problem of road damage from heavy trucks associated with oil and gas development should be addressed.
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Texas highways need $1 billion just to meet maintenance needs, transportation director says
By Tom Benning
Dallas Morning News
January 10, 2013
With state lawmakers already talking about how to address Texas’ growing transportation needs, the Texas Department of Transportation’s executive director on Thursday set out to define the debate’s starting point.
TxDOT needs an additional $1 billion a year just to shore up its maintenance budget, Phil Wilson said.
And going forward, the agency will probably need an additional $3 billion a year — on top of its current $10 billion budget — “to address congestion long term with a sustainable method.”
“It’s important that these issues be addressed,” Wilson told the 35W Coalition, a Tarrant County transportation advocacy group, at Texas Motor Speedway. “I believe there is the will there to take a look at how we can bring more resources to bear.”
TxDOT’s needs are no surprise to state leaders. In the opening days of the new legislative session, several of them mentioned the importance of tackling transportation and other infrastructure.
TxDOT’s budget is heavily reliant on a 20-cent-a-gallon state motor fuels tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1991. Inflation — along with increased fuel efficiency, which allows drivers to fill up less often — has dramatically reduced the agency’s ability to draw revenue from the gas tax.
If nothing changes in the next two years, Wilson said, growing maintenance costs will soon leave no room in the budget for new construction or expansion projects.
“That’s just math,” he said.
Lawmakers have proposed several ideas to boost transportation funding, even as a larger budget battle looms. One is rededicating sales taxes from vehicle purchases to TxDOT. Another is adding $50 to the annual vehicle registration fee. Some have suggested tapping into the state’s rainy day fund to create a $1 billion highway infrastructure bank.
Wilson declined to offer support for any specific funding proposals, saying “it’s a legislative decision.”
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