Texas needs leadership on transportation, Hank is stepping up

Posted in 2010 Primary, Around The State, Commentary, Election 2010, Good Stuff, Privatization, Road Issues, Transportation at 3:00 pm by wcnews

The DMN’s Transpiration blog has been monitoring today’s Texas Transportation Commission in Fort Worth. And, of course, funding, or the lack thereof, as been a major issue. TxDOT: Trans Texas Corridor dead but I-35 still needs massive help.

[Tim Brown, director of the I-35 advisory committee] said that following the transportation department’s decision last month to adopt a no-build alternative for the I-35 portion of the Trans Texas Corridor plan, his committee has established local panels of volunteers to study local needs along the corridor. He hopes that by August, the results of those segment advisory committees’ work will be presented to TxDOT, which will evaluate how to move forward. The options are not much different than they were back when Perry proposed the TTC: build a new highway parallel to I-35, or widen or double-deck (in places) the existing interstate.

Every option will be expensive.

Brown said the demise of the highly controversial Trans Texas Corridor has taught his committee two important lessons: “We need to pay more attention to the folks on the ground, number one, and number two, the complexities of trying to figure out what do with a major transportation corridor are such that simple solutions just don’t suffice. We’re recommending we go back and do something a little bit different this time.”

Yes, that’s correct. Since our state leadership has neglected transportation funding for almost 20 years – the last time the gas tax was raised was 1992 – it’s going to be expensive, cost a bunch, to now to make up the difference.  There is a “simple” solution, but there are no easy answers.  Meaning all we have to do is go back to the way we used to pay for highways in Texas.

We also learn today from just how far we are behind, TxDOT: State will be able to afford $6 billion less in construction over next 10 years.

Looking ahead 10 years, TxDOT officials said that the agency has had to revise its cash-flow projections significantly from just 18 months ago. Revenue will be down about $4 billion, through 2019 compared to estimates made in April, 2008.

That will translate to about $6 billion less in cash available to pay contractors for design and construction work, said James Bass, chief financial officer at the Texas Department of Transportation.

At least one commissioner, Ned Holmes of Houston, said even those numbers may be optimistic. Revenue from the state and federal gas taxes, he said, will likely go down — rather go slightly up, as TxDOT is projecting — as drivers use increasingly fuel-efficient cars.

Bass said the department assumes those revenues will go up about half a percent in 2010, and 1 percent per year for the rest of the next decade.

Both Holmes and Bass agreed the 10-year forecasts of revenue are educated guesses.

Isn’t calling a 10-year revenue forecast and educated guess redundant? Anyway, we all know the way out of this mess. And it looks like we finally have a candidate for governor that willing to lead on the issue, Gilbert Proposes Sweeping Reforms, Return To Pay-Go For Transportation Infrastructure. He’s proposed a new plan called, “Getting Texas Moving Again“.

Many of you know who I am and are aware of my candidacy because of my involvement in killing the Trans Texas Corridor and working to put an end to eminent domain abuses in Texas.

While there is far more to my candidacy for governor than just my transportation policy, I am particularly excited and proud to unveil this piece of my vision for Texas. It represents many years of hard work and research and contains not just my ideas, but those shared with me by thousands of Texans over the years as I traveled across the state opposing the Trans Texas Corridor.

You’ve probably heard people use the phrase about the “ox in the ditch” when it comes to something that is stuck or not going anywhere. That’s the problem with our transportation policy in Texas: Governor Perry’s ox, the Trans Texas Corridor, got stuck in a ditch. Instead of coming up with new and better transportation policy when this happened, Governor Perry and his administration just stayed on the side of the road and let our transportation needs pass right on by.

Every time I see TxDOT’s new slogan, “Keep Texas Moving,” I laugh a little, because our transportation policy and development in this state is doing anything but moving. When I’m governor, that will change. That is why I’ve titled this plan, “Getting Texas Moving Again.” It is time to move Texas transportation policy and construction in the right direction—toward new ideas and a brighter future. When I’m governor, that will happen.

It includes this:

Generating funding for road construction and improvement is key to getting Texas moving again.
Indexing The Motor Fuels Tax.

Hank proposes a one time increase in the gas tax of 8 cents and implementing automatic increases in the gas tax annually from 2012 forward based on increases in the Highway Cost Index (HCI), with a four percent cap on any annual increase. Should the HCI increase by more than 4% in any year, the balance would carry forward to the next year and be added to any increase for that year. In years where there is a zero or negative increase in the HCI, revenue generated from carryovers would go toward reducing TxDOT’s existing debt. This is the only way we can build out the infrastructure Texas desperately needs and restore fiscal responsibility to transportation funding without incurring massive new debts that will burden this state for decades to come.

Hank will require TxDOT to adhere to its funding formulas so each TxDOT district receives the appropriate amount of funding.

That’s the fairest way to make up that funding gap and making Texas’ infrastructure the best in the nation again.  Our current governor has wasted almost 10 years on this issue.  The neglect has gone on far too long. Texas’ leaders the past 20 years or so have tried to use gimmicks and corporate giveaways to attempt to pay for highways in this state. It’s about time we had a leader that will stand up, take responsibility, and say what must be done to fix this important problem.

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » DMN says, Hank “Giblert has..guts” said,

    October 30, 2009 at 10:08 am

    […] for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas provides a great case in point.  Yesterday Hank Gilbert released his reality based  transportation plan that will make up for the neglect of the last 20 or so year, and fund transportation in Texas for […]

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