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Brandi Bird

 

Marc Williams

 

Steven Albright

Transportation Funding: It's Complicated

 

Legislative staffers and a handful of lawmakers packed the Texas Capitol Grill meeting room recently to get a better understanding of how and what Texas is is doing to meet the mobility needs of a fast-growing population.


It was Transportation 101, a biennial ritual staged by members of the Transportation Advocates of Texas, a statewide non-profit which brings together many parties interested in Texas making adequate infrastructure and mobility investments.


The session was led by Brandi Bird of the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition who reviewed all of the players and entities that are involved in setting transportation policy and working to get components of the mobility system in place.  Other speakers were Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority; Marc Williams, TxDOT deputy executive director; and Steven Albright, former budget director in the Governor’s Office and now director of government affairs for the Associated General Contractors of Texas. The speakers' presentations (Download HERE) provide a quick primer covering TxDOT, metropolitan planning organizations, transit authorities, toll authorities and regional mobility authorities.

 


Albright provided a historical perspective on transportation funding and a look into the future including the need to eliminate the statutory termination dates on authority to transfer revenues dedicated by Proposition 1 and Proposition 7 to the State Highway Fund.  Authority for transferring Prop 1 funding, which comes from oil and gas production revenues, will expire on December 31, 2024, if the Legislature does not remove or extend the expiration date.


He pointed to an informal collection of information from various TxDOT districts which together indicates that more than $60 billion in priority highway projects are unfunded in the current 10-year Unified Transportation Plan.  Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg recently observed that three commission workshops covering urban area needs, Interstate 35 alone, rural interstates and portions of the state’s highway truck system had identified $49.8 billion in project needs unfunded in the UTP. And that is well short of a comprehensive list of projects that fall in the state's large highway funding gap.


TxDOT’s Marc Williams explained the department’s multi-layer project planning and project selection system that starts with a 24-year Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan.  It then steps down to the 10-year Unified Transportation Program which sets priorities and guides the development of transportation projects across the state.  The UTP prioritizes projects and authorizes the distribution of funding expected to be available over the next 10 years.  The UTP does not guarantee that a project will be built but does authorize work to begin preparing them for construction.  The 2019 UTP contains planned funding for more than 13,000 projects across the miles and miles of Texas.

 

 

2/1/19