SENATE & HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE MEETINGS BEING CALLED FROM THE FLOOR as the Legislature heads toward the end of the 2015 session on June 1st.
The Commission will hold its regular monthly meeting May 28th in Austin.
New Texans Don't Bring
Any Roads With Them
MORE THAN 1,100 NEW RESIDENTS every day help make Texas an economic powerhouse. They bring their cars and trucks but leave their roads behind. The Texas population has increased 55% since 1990 while the state's roadway miles have increased only 7%.
CHALLENGE - Funding the Diverse Transportation Needs of a Vast and Rapidly Growing State Transportation Advocates of Texas is a statewide coalition that brings together cities, counties, established community and regional organizations and business interests to support additional funding to address the challenging highway transportation demands facing the state. We support funding solutions for infrastructure improvements that reduce congestion, enhance safety, move commerce, create jobs and improve the quality of life in Texas.
The Texas Senate declined to concur in House amendments to SJR 5 and requested a conference committee be named. The following Senators were appointed to the conference committee to reconcile differences between the two chambers: Senators Robert Nichols, Jane Nelson, John Whitmire, Kevin Eltife and Bob Hall. The following House Members were appointed to the conference committee: Representatives Joe Pickett, Yvonne Davis, Patricia Harless, John Otto and Ron Simmons. The House Transportation Committee replaced the text of the original SJR 5 in its entirety and the House approved the alternate version by a vote of 139 to 2. The House version would set aside funds from existing general sales tax revenues for highway funding and would expire in 2026. The Senate version would permanently set aside revenues from the vehicle sales tax. Both versions would provide a significant new source of constitutionally dedicated funding for transportation. As of May 22nd the conference committee had not announced agreement on a measure that could be considered for final passage and later submission to the voters.
The Texas House of Representatives today voted 139 to 2 in favor of a resolution that would allow Texas voters to decide whether to constitutionally dedicate an estimated $3.6 billion a year in sales tax revenues to the State Highway Fund. The vote sends the amended version of SJR 5 back to the Texas Senate for further consideration. The Senate earlier passed its own highway funding amendment proposal by a vote of 28 to 2. Votes of two-thirds of the members of each house are required to present a constitutional amendment to the voters. The House added amendments to their substitute proposal that would limit the fund dedication if state revenues fall when compared to a previous biennium. Another approved amendment set the date of the constitutional amendment election for November 2016 instead of 2015. The constitutional dedication would expire in 2026 after a possible 9 years. The House also approved the amended version of the enabling legislation for the House approach.
Significant progress has been made on moving proposals for additional highway funding through the Texas Legislature. The House will soon take up the legislative session's most important piece of funding legislation -- HJR 13 (SJR 5) by Transportation Chairman Joe Pickett. With voter approval it would constitutionally dedicate an estimated $3.6 billion a year in sales tax revenues to the State Highway Fund. [Read More]
A national transportation group research group called TRIP has identified the 100 highway improvements most needed to support economic growth and quality of life in Texas, ranked in order as determined by TRIP. These improvements include projects to build, expand or modernize highways or bridges throughout the state in order to accommodate projected job growth and population increases. Many projects are on portions of I-35 and in the Houston metro area. Seven of the 10 most needed projects outside major cities are on the route being developed as Interstate 69. [Read More]
Local leaders and community organizations from across the state are taking the position that Texas needs a new dedicated source of funding for transportation. More than 50 cities and groups have joined in a statement encouraging state legislators to explore and approve reliable constitutionally dedicated funding mechanisms that will keep the state from falling further behind on congestion, interregional connectivity, safety and deteriorating roadways. [Read More]
The Texas House Transportation Committee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would dedicate more than $3 billion a year to help fill the highway funding shortfall of more than $5 billion a year. If approved by lawmakers and by voters in November, the amendment would dedicate a portion of general sales taxes collected by the state to non-toll transportation projects. The Texas Senate has already approved a different approach that would constitutionally dedicate about $2.5 billion a year from vehicle sales taxes. [Read More]
The Texas Tribune's Aman Batheja has posted a story noting that anti-toll road sentiment at the State Capitol is at its highest level in at least a decade. [Read More]
Texas has been relying for more than a decade on one-time funding jolts to keep transportation projects moving through the planning, approval and construction pipeline. Scott Haywood of Move Texas Forward points out that it is time for predictable, long-term sources of revenue that match the five to ten years it takes to get a project ready for construction. [Read Commentary]
In a recent editorial the Dallas Morning News finds a lot to like about the proposal by Sen. Robert Nichols and Sen. Jane Nelson to let voters decide whether to dedicate a significant portion of future vehicle sales tax revenues to the State Highway Fund. The plan passed out of the Senate on a 28-2 vote and was sent to the House for consideration. The Editorial Board finds it encouraging "to see the stars so aligned" on transportation funding. [Read Editorial]
A significant portion of future state vehicle sales tax revenues would be dedicated to building highways and paying off debt on past highway projects if a proposal by Sen. Robert Nichols is approved by lawmakers and then by Texas voters. The Senate has approved his legislation -- Senate Bill 5 and Senate Joint Resolution 5. If approved by the House, voters would be asked to pass a constitutional amendment to permanently reserve $2.5 billion a year in vehicle sales taxes for the General Fund. The next $2.5 billion would go into the State Highway Fund and then half of any additional amount would also go to non-toll roads and bridges and to paying off existing transportation related debt. The change would not go into effect until 2018. [Read More]
The House Committee on Transportation and the House Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Expenditures and Finance have issued their reports to fellow members of the House on issues studied during the interim. [Read More]
Speaking to a large gathering at a Transportation Advocates of Texas reception, Transportation Commission Member Jeff Austin said TxDOT is ready to put the first $1.7 billion from Prop 1 to work dealing with highway preservation and traffic congestion. He said the strong message sent to lawmakers by voters was "Transportation is important in Texas. Rep. Joe Pickett said he was encouraged that statewide elected leaders are talking about address the serious highway funding shortfall. [Read More]
Texas has the highest overall rating and is the most cost-effective state highway system among the nation’s 20 most populous states. That is the bottom line of the Reason Foundation’s 21st Annual Highway Report rating the nation’s 50 state transportation departments and their highway systems. TxDOT Executive Director Joe Weber says that is just one example of the agency's stellar achievements in the past year. [Read More]
Economic expansion and population growth have put tremendous pressure on the state's transportation system and more resources are needed to deal with the shortfall. That's why directors of the Transportation Advocates of Texas support passage of new, long-term, sustainable funding sources as part of a transportation legislative program for the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature. The program includes support for an end to legislative diversions, additional local funding options and dedication a portion of existing vehicle sales tax revenues to help restore the purchasing power of Fund 6 --- the State Highway Fund. [Read the TAoT Legislative Program]
Texas Governor-Elect Greg Abbott made investing more revenue in transportation projects a major theme of his successful bid to lead Texas. He stressed that Texas needs a permanent source of additional transportation funding and that better transportation infrastructure is critical to the state's economy. He campaigned in favor of dedicating a substantial portion of the state's motor vehicle sales tax revenues to highway funding and signaled to lawmakers that he would back them in advancing this major changing in funding. [Read More]
Much more needs to be done to fill the highway funding gap in Texas even after voters gave 80% support to the Prop 1 constitutional amendment. The Transportation Advocates of Texas offer a special thanks to Sen. Robert Nichols and Rep. Joe Pickett for their tireless work on behalf of the amendment and to all Texans for passing the ballot measure. TAoT and its member organizations will be asking state lawmakers in the upcoming session to approve additional new, long-term, sustainable funding sources to fill the remaining funding gap faced by the state as Texas tries to keep up with continuing growth and aging roads and bridges. [Read More]
The new head of the Texas Department of Transportation says that the state is falling further and further behind in the Permian Basin and South Texas counties where oil and gas drilling is intense. Lt. Gen. Joe Weber (Ret.) met with members of the Transportation Advocates of Texas in September. He said energy companies are telling him that the current shale oil and gas revolution could last for decades. He said TxDOT is trying to figure out what the policy should be on maintaining and rebuilding roads never intended for the pounding they are now taking. He said that as far as he is concerned the policy will not be gravel roads. [Read More]
The list of Most Congested Roadways in Texas for 2014 is out and this year it has been expanded to include more than just "Big City" congestion. There are really no surprises on the Big City list -- not much has changed on those sometimes gridlocked freeways that kill time and waste fuel. What originally began as the list of Texas’ 100 Most Congested Roadways now provides a variety of congestion measures on 1,783 roadway sections spread over 25 urban regions. The expanded annual ranking gives Texans in smaller cities a look at problem roadways in their areas, regardless of how they compare to Big-City bottlenecks. [Read More]
Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the House Select Transportation Committee, met with members of the Transportation Advocates of Texas in July and talked about what he has learned while crisscrossing the state talking to groups of Texans. He finds that most people who have no background in highway funding assume that the tax on gasoline is a moving number that goes up and down with the price of fuel instead of being fixed at 20 cents per gallon as it has been since 1991. Pickett said transportation finance has become so complex and convoluted that even local officials who need to understand and make decisions find it too hard to make sense of. [Read More]
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus met with members of the Transportation Advocates of Texas and pledged to help chip away at the growing shortfall in funding for Texas highways. Straus said he thinks it is essential to end diversions from the State Highway Fund that go to non-road building. Getting that off the table will allow the Legislature to address the much larger transportation funding needs that are the result of our success in economic growth and population growth in recent years. He also joined TAoT in backing the Proposition 1 Highway Funding Amendment that will go to the voters in November. He repeated an earlier warning about the wisdom of relying too much on volatile energy prices for long-term transportation funding. [Read More]