Work on the US 77 overpass at Caesar Ave. in Kingsville in South Texas nears completion. This section of freeway, built with voter-approved debt financing which is now maxed out, will become part of Interstate 69 in the next few years.The overpass artwork honors the thousands of naval aviators who have trained at Naval Station Kingsville over the decades.

 

 

 

 

 

Constitutional Amendment A Big First Step

 

November 5, 2014

 

Transportation Advocates of Texas leaders today thanked Texans for their overwhelming vote in favor of the Proposition 1 highway funding constitutional amendment that will provide about $1.7 billion a year for state road construction and maintenance.


“We believe the voters sent a clear message.  They know we must invest more to deal with growing traffic congestion and overburdened, aging roads and bridges,” said Brandon Janes, board chairman of Transportation Advocates of Texas (TAoT).  A total of 79.8% of voters statewide favored the constitutional amendment


“We hope members of the Legislature hear the message.  Texans need their lawmakers to view this as a first step and show resolve by approving additional long-term funding for highways,” he said.


 Even with passage of the constitutional amendment the state will face a shortfall of $3 billion to $4 billion a year for the rest of the decade just to keep traffic congestion and road preservation at current levels, Janes said.

 

FIRST STEP TOWARD MORE FUNDING FOR HIGHWAYS


Janes said TAoT and its member organizations will be asking state lawmakers to approve new, long-term, sustainable funding sources for transportation infrastructure and to dedicate existing revenue generated from taxes and fees related to transportation to the maintenance, improvement and expansion of roads, rail and public transportation.  This would include ending diversions from the State Highway Fund and dedication of future motor vehicle sales tax revenues to highway funding.


The concept of asking voters to dedicate part of the state’s oil and gas production tax revenues to highways was brought forward in the last legislative session by Sen. Robert Nichols, a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission, and Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the House special committee on transportation funding. "Chairman Nichols and Chairman Pickett deserve our special thanks for the tremendous service they have provided to their fellow Texans," Janes said.


Nichols and Pickett were constantly on the move around Texas during the past few months explaining to Texans why it was important to make this incremental step in funding for highways.
They penned a piece reminding Texans that the gasoline tax has not increased in 23 years and noting that most Texans don’t realize $20 billion in borrowed money has financed most of our highway construction during the past decade.

 

"In order to keep up with Texas’ growing road preservation needs and congestion relief demands we have borrowed close to $2 billion a year over the last decade. The credit card is maxed out," they wrote in a recent newspaper article.


They drove home the point by noting that in 2015, for the first time in state history, the Texas Department of Transportation will spend more money on debt payments than on new roads and bridges.  “Roads are expensive, but borrowing and delaying projects will cost much more. We must provide a sustainable revenue source for the future demands on our roads and bridges,” they wrote.

 

On the day after the election Senator Nichols said, “Texans want and deserve a safe, first class highway system. Voters have made an investment in our state’s economic future by supporting this proposal, and we must carry this momentum forward into the next legislative session. I would  like to thank everyone who worked on this proposition and supported it.”

 

“I’m excited that we are able to take this first, big-big step in putting us back on a pay-as-you-go path to finance highway construction and other transportation-related  infrastructure,” said Rep. Pickett.

 

“This is a great victory, but there is still much to be done,” Nichols said. “The Legislature must make additional investments in our state’s infrastructure and make funding transportation a priority. Better, safer roads for Texas families and businesses should always be our goal and this is a great step in that direction.”