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TAB: Texas Needs More Money for Highways

 

October 17, 2014

 

The Texas Association of Business takes the Texas highway funding crisis seriously. Here is an item explaining their position:


If you have tried to drive anywhere in any major city in Texas, and a lot of small towns too, you know why we need to invest more money into our transportation system.

 

The cost of congestion in dollars is staggering. The Washington, D.C.-based transportation study group TRIP estimates that driving on deficient roads costs Texans $25.1 billion every year, and that number will only go up if we don't do something about easing that congestion.

 

Here are some facts and figures that will help you connect with this issue on a very personal level. The TRIP report estimates what traffic takes out of your pocket every year. When you hear these numbers think to yourself: What could I buy with that, or what could I do to help others with that? If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the cost per year is $1,740; in Houston it's $1,850; San Antonio is $1,780; and Austin is $1,655. For many people that could be a house payment or rent payment or a couple of car payments. Imagine what good work could be done if that money were donated to the charity of your choice.

 

There also is a huge waste of time sitting in traffic. The TRIP report says drivers in Houston lose 52 hours; Dallas-Fort Worth area drivers lose 45 hours; Austin drivers lose 44 hours; and San Antonio drivers lose 38 hours each year just sitting in traffic. That's not only lost productivity but also lost time with family and friends. These are hours we will never get back, simply wasted behind the wheel.

 

Putting the monetary and time costs aside, there also is a human toll. Heavy traffic is dangerous. The TRIP report said that on average, 3,208 people were killed annually in Texas traffic crashes from 2009 to 2013. For that five-year period there were a total of 16,041 people killed in traffic crashes, roughly the size of Brenham.

 

Part of the answer to this problem is the proposed constitutional amendment (referred to by many as Proposition 1) on the statewide ballot this Election Day. In Texas, we are blessed with oil and natural gas tax revenue that is flowing at a record pace into our Economic Stabilization Fund (known by most people as the State's Rainy Day Fund). The proposed amendment would transfer $1.7 billion from that fund to the State Highway Fund in the first year alone. The amount of money would vary depending on the amount of tax revenue flowing into the Economic Stabilization Fund.

 

There are restrictions on how that money may be used. It can only be used for new road construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of roads or acquiring right of way for public roads. The money MAY NOT be used for toll roads.

 

While we are talking about a significant amount of money, this will not totally solve our transportation problem, but it is an important starting point. The Texas Department of Transportation believes it will take at least $3 billion more per year, not counting the money from the proposed amendment, to maintain our current level of congestion. Combined with other measures that I believe the Legislature will consider in 2015, I believe we can reach that goal, and maybe find a few more dollars over that $3 billion to start to ease our congestion in the coming years, but we cannot do any of those things unless the proposed constitutional amendment passes in November.

 

Without that new revenue stream, we are doomed to keep sitting in traffic for many more hours at a time instead of being productive, sleeping in on the weekends or enjoying time with our children and grandchildren. - Bill Hammond, CEO