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Lawmakers Not Happy With TxDOT's Gravel Road Conversion Plan

South Texas Environmental Education and Research

The Texas Transportation Commission got an update and harsh words from lawmakers regarding the 83 miles of roadway in South Texas that they are considering converting into gravel.

Texas Department of Transportation Chief Engineer John Barton told the commission that the roads in South Texas where hydraulic fracking is taking place are breaking down faster than anything they’ve ever seen.

"Our traditional approach would’ve been to repair the failures and then add an asphalt layer to the top of that roadway," Barton said. "Again, under normal traffic conditions we would’ve expected this to last 28 to 30 years, but under the traffic conditions we are facing today, it's just not sufficient."

Barton said TxDOT is spending $127,000 per mile to fix these heavily-traveled roads and it would only cost $10,000 per mile to maintain if the roads were turned into gravel. TxDOT is also considering turning these roads back over to South Texas counties.

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, said he’s tired of hearing that TxDOT does not have an adequate plan on this issue.

"And I think it’s time for TxDOT to say, 'We’ve made a mistake, we’re not going to just tear all these roads up. This turnover program its meant to be volunteer only, and we’re going to put a plan together.' And on the unpaved roads, put some money aside. You’ve got it," Pickett said.

TxDOT will revisit the gravel conversion issue with affected counties in 60 days.