House Transportation to Look at Tolling,

Technology, Contracting in Interim

 

November 9, 2015

 

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has issued interim charges instructing the House Transportation Committee to study a list of topic including local transportation funding mechanisms and innovative transportation technologies.


Some of the issues that will be before Transportation Chairman Joe Pickett's committee are familiar including a dive into the use of design-build contracts by TxDOT which have been authorized by previous Legislatures.


Toll roads are again on the agenda.  The committee is charged with considering ways to reduce or eliminate the role of tolled roads in providing congestion relief in light of approval of Proposition 1 in 2014 and Proposition 7 in 2015, along with the legislative move to end the practice of funding much of the Department of Public Safety budget from the State Highway Fund.  Experts have said curtailing or ending the use of toll roads would require billions more each year on top of those funding sources.


Here is the complete list of interim charges:


House Committee on Transportation


1. Study the Texas Department of Transportation's role in responding to natural disasters, specifically reviewing contra-flow lane plans for major routes and technology that can minimize evacuation and travel times.


2. Examine the current framework for designating a project as a tolled road. Consider ways to reduce or eliminate the role of tolled roads in providing congestion relief given recent transportation funding measures approved by the Legislature.


3. Review the state's statutory and budgetary requirements for design-build contracts, including cost and quantity restrictions, and consider the effect of removing those restrictions.


4. Review the functions of all departments in the Texas Department of Transportation related to alternative modes of transportation and make recommendations to improve their efficiency.
5. Evaluate local transportation funding mechanisms authorized by the state, such as transportation reinvestment zones, to determine their effectiveness. Identify methods for local entities to utilize these tools to improve congestion.


6. Study the current statutory requirements for utility relocation and recommend modifications that will minimize delay times while protecting taxpayers and ratepayers.


7. Review the areas currently designated as oversize or overweight corridors. Make recommendations to ensure that consistent measures are used to determine fee amounts, bond requirements, and gross weights allowable. Identify measures that may be taken to protect the quality of the roadway.


8. Examine innovative transportation technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, to evaluate potential cost savings and ways in which they may reduce traffic congestion, promote safety, and increase economic productivity.


9. Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 84th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:


a. consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;


b. identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;


c. determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

 

d. identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.