The Source: Texas Roads Find Oasis In Funding Desert
Texas' roads have been critically underfunded for years, but an upsurge of funds may help.
As TPR reported, roads in shale plays like the Eagle Ford region have been pushed to their limits. Farm-to-Market roads and State Highways were not built for the kinds of vehicles and traffic the oil boom has brought, and the results have been dangerous and often deadly, with fatalities increasing 40 percent in 2012.
Last week, Proposition 1 passed, which will infuse an estimated $1.4 billion in revenues from Texas' oil and gas taxes to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), via surplus funds to the "Rainy Day Fund". TxDOT has already said the much needed revenue is a good start, but will not be enough to maintain the state's 79,000+ miles of roads, which is more than any other state. That shortfall could lead to more troubled areas like Eagle Ford.
South Texas is just one of many places statewide the problem occurs. TxDOT made several controversial and unpopular decisions to deal with their lack of funding this year. One was converting paved roads to gravel, a program that caused widespread protest and was recently abandoned, with a new request from TxDOT for an additional $400 million to get through the year.
Additionally, the state agency proposed turning state roads over to cities to maintain. Upon receiving feedback the program was made voluntary.
The federal 18 cents-per-gallon gas tax trickles down to state highway funds. It has declined for years, as a result of better fuel economy, and hasn't been raised since 1993. Congress has made little progress in raising the tax, and with a new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, changing the political math, future legislation is uncertain.
What do the new dollars going into state roads really mean? Have we reached a moment where a political coalition in the state will force additional funding? How will plans to toll roads across the state play out?
- Daryl Fowler, DeWitt County Judge. DeWitt sits in the Eagle Ford Shale.
- Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, a nonprofit trade association for cities.
- Scott Haywood, president of Move Texas Forward, an advocacy group focused on transportation across the state.
*TxDOT declined to appear on this episode.