Transportation Neglect, Either Way We’re Going To Pay

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Williamson County at 2:19 pm by wcnews

Here’s another Williamson County transportation related story from last week that needs to be put into context, Williamson governments set to pay for building state road. Anybody who reads EOW with any regularity knows that when it comes to funding our trasnportation infrastructure we believe the best way to do that is by raising the gas tax, statewide, by about 10 cents and the indexing it to inflation. That will take care of building and maintaining roads and would be much cheaper than any of the scams being put forward by Republicans at the local, state, or federal level.

Long time readers also know that the gas tax in Texas hasn’t been raised since 1992, and that neglect, brought on mainly by the GOP anti-tax rhetoric is what has caused the withering and neglect of our highways and byways. And that’s where the article above comes in.

In an unusual move, Round Rock and Georgetown, along with Williamson County and private developers, are considering teaming up to take over the project to widen FM 1460.

But if they do so, the road will be removed from the state’s system, and the cities will permanently inherit the maintenance responsibility.

This fiscal year, the state budgeted $113,000 to maintain the road, TxDOT spokesman Marcus Cooper said.

And while the fast-growing cities of Round Rock and Georgetown, which have relatively high tax bases, are trying to find ways to take on major road improvements once under the state’s jurisdiction, with TxDOT funding expected to continue shrinking this year, local governments across the state may feel forced to take on costly projects.

“I think with the funding situation like it is, if local governments want roads built, they’re going to have to start taking them over,” county road consultant Mike Weaver said.

The department’s financial situation stems from a combination of cutbacks in federal funding, inflation and stagnant revenue from the gas tax, said TxDOT’s Austin district engineer, Bob Daigh.

Construction costs have increased significantly in recent years, Daigh said, and the federal government rescinded $660 million last year and intends to take away $257 million more in the near future.

Because of the failure of our state and federal leaders to keep up with the financial management of our transportation infrastructure - they know of these days we’d have to actually pay for and build new roads - and prepare for new roads to be built, the money is not available now when we need it.

Fine, the local governments, city and county, will now pick up the tab. At least our taxes won’t go up, right? Wrong. How are they going to pay for not only building the new road but for maintaining that road for years to come? Gee, hmmm, where do they get there money from? Local citizens, by raising their taxes.

Another twist could slow the plan: If Round Rock and its partners expand the road, TxDOT requires the entire section of FM 1460, which extends into Georgetown, to be taken off the state’s highway system.

But Georgetown is not as far into the planning process as Round Rock.

The city is already considering adopting another road, Williams Drive, from the state system, which is the first priority, said Gabe Sansing, a Georgetown City Council member and chairman of the Georgetown Transportation Advisory Board.

“We’re sitting on a real dilemma,” Council Member Farley Snell said. “Suddenly, federal funds dried up; meanwhile, we have local priorities struggling against new priorities.”

The current cost estimate to make Georgetown’s section of FM 1460 a four-lane rural highway with a divider is $20.3 million.

The Georgetown City Council is considering putting a bond proposition on the November ballot that would pay for widening its part, but how that will affect the timing of the project in Round Rock is unclear, Georgetown city spokesman Keith Hutchinson said.

And with that bond will come a higher tax rate to pay it off. Whether it’s toll roads, higher property taxes, sales taxes, etc.. we’re all going to pay for the roads anyway. We might as well do it in a way we all know worked before. Gas is already much too expensive, but 10 cents/gallon is still much, much cheaper than all these games and scams that continue coming. But either way as this article shows we - citizens or Williamson County, Georgetown and Round Rock - are going to pay.

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