Download the Full
Committee Interim Report

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The Committee Interim Report highlights factors impacting the quality of Texas highways:

 

Rapidly increasing population and job growth as 15 million new Texans are projected to arrive over the next 25 years.

An increase in freight traffic at twice the rate of passenger vehicle traffic over the next 25 years.

Increased time and costs for system improvement.

Inadequate road preservation and replacement.
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Deficient bridges. At least 13 percent percent of bridges in Texas have surpassed their 50 year design life.

Traditional funding sources are shrinking relative to traffic growth.

Reliance on recent one-time funding has temporarily masked the severity of the funding shortfall.

 

House Transportation Committee Interim Report:

Legislature Must Explore Funding Options


January 5, 2013


The Texas House Transportation Committee says that the current gas tax won’t meet future transportation needs and that we must explore other sources of funding.


In a Final Interim Report to the new 83rd Texas Legislature, the committee concludes that the highway funding shortfall is huge and growing.  Here are the committee’s three key recommendations:

1. Evaluate ending all diversions from the State Highway Fund.

 

2. The Legislature should work to establish long-term solutions to address the declining revenue from the state gas tax.

 

3. Increase accountability for and transparency of how transportation dollars are spent by TxDOT.

The committee does not recommend specific sources for new sustainable highway project funding.  They do list all of the possible options presented in testimony taken during committee hearings during the interim and provide a few hints on which ones might win favor with fellow lawmaker.


The Report incorporates the findings of the Texas Transportation Institute at A&M which looked at projected needs and the cost of work that would be required to keep up with growth and road deterioration over the next 20 years.   With current funding levels pavement quality is projected to decline 30% over the next 10 years and there will be little funding for adding new highway lane capacity.


In 2012 a total of $6.9 billion came into the State Highway Fund (Fund 6).  Of that 33% came from the state gas tax, 19% from vehicle registration fees and 37% from federal gas tax reimbursements.

 

SHRINKING GAS TAX


The Committee recognizes the need for a move away from the motor fuels tax because gas tax revenues are shrinking even as the number of vehicles on Texas roads grows. 


“With the advent of electric cars, other alternative fuel sources and increasing fuel efficiency, the ability of the current gas tax to meet the future transportation needs of the state is insufficient,” the Committee concludes.  “With a declining primary revenue source for transportation projects, Texas must explore other sources of funding.”


The Report notes that a 5 cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax would generate an estimated $420 million a year in 2014 but only an estimated $280 million in 2030 because of vehicle efficiency and fuel shifting. The Report also explains proposals to increase annual vehicle registration fees noting that a $50 per year increase would produce an additional $1.2 billion in highly predictable revenue for highway projects.


The Committee also looked at sales tax options.  The Report notes that $2.5 million from the 6.25% sales tax on motor vehicles flowed to the General Fund in 2011.  A proposal by Sen. Robert Nichols, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, would seek voter approval to dedicate this sales tax revenue to paying off highway bonds and maintaining the highway system. It would be phased in over 10 years to allow ajustments in the General Fund.  Transportation Advocates of Texas (TAoT) has strongly endorsed this proposal as a way to provide a sustainable funding source that will grow with the state's population and needs.

 

PANAMA CANAL IMPACTS

 

The Committee was charged with studying the state's preparedness for the expansion of the Panama Canal and the likely increase in commerce. Here are their recommendations:

1. Work with our federal officials to obtain a greater return on contributions to the Harbor
Maintenance Trust Fund.


2. Consider the establishment of a TxDOT Maritime Division.


3. Encourage TxDOT to study the costs of updating the infrastructure of the Gulf
Intracoastal Waterway.


4. Continue to work with Texas ports to capitalize on the opportunities offered by the
expansion of the Panama Canal.


5. Review the findings of the Panama Canal Stakeholder Working Group report.

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

The Committee was charged with studying the environmental review process for transportation projects and monitoring of implementation of reforms passed in the last session. Here are their recommendations:

1. Continue to monitor the implementation of the new TxDOT rules governing the
environmental review process.


2. Continue to find ways to reduce project timeframes and ultimate project cost.

RAIL ISSUES

 

Six members of the committee signed on to a letter by Rep. Ruth McClendon of San Antonio urging that rail transportation be given more attention in state policymaking. They note that the state has an economic interest in shifting freight loads from trucks to rail. They urge the Legislature to develop a reliable source of revenue for the Texas Railroad Relocation and Improvement Fund which has remained unfunded since it was approved in 2005.