Highway Bribery

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Road Issues at 12:22 pm by wcnews

In the tolls versus gas tax debate there has long been one line of reasoning that’s been hard to refute. That’s the argument of rural Texans, and/or Texans that don’t live the major metropolitan areas, that they don’t mind toll roads and would prefer not to raise the gas tax because only those who drive the roads would have to pay. If it wasn’t for the Trans-Texas Corridor, and the destruction of farm land, this difference between rural and urban probably could have been a successful way to bring rural legislators on board with road privatization schemes. If yesterday’s action by the Transportation Commission is any indication they seem to be doing their best to take care of that argument.

The Texas Transportation Commission, buckling to pressure, decided Thursday to let highways decay some during the next decade rather than follow through on a scare to choke off all construction money — including funds for the U.S. 281 toll road.

Commissioners recently drew heat after saying funds were too scarce to cover both maintenance and construction, and that keeping roads in good shape was more important.

But commissioners, apparently feeling that keeping testy state lawmakers off their backs is even more important, voted 4-0 to shift $5 billion from maintenance to construction.

“Philosophically, I don’t think you let your house deteriorate and then go build a new garage,” Commissioner Ted Houghton said before casting his aye. “I think we’re headed down, no pun intended, a very rocky road.”


The Transportation Commission’s 11-year outlook leaves $12 billion for maintenance, half of what’s needed to meet a goal of getting nine out of 10 roads in good condition.

Officials estimate that just 80 percent of roads will be in good shape by 2019, down 7 percent from today. By then, $9 billion more will be needed to reach the 90 percent goal.

Now the “decay” and neglect, caused by not adequately funding our transportation infrastructure for the last 17 years, is going to begin taking it’s toll on all Texans. This should be make clear that we’re all in this together. If you live in a rural area, and don’t think the neglect of highway funding over the last 17 years doesn’t affect you, well, it soon will. Or as this DMN article on it say:

Texans can expect a bumpier ride over the next decade, as the state transportation
department plans to spend considerably less on highway maintenance than it had previously anticipated.

It’s likely that those roads in the more populous areas of the state, with more representatives in the legislature, will get more of the scraps of maintenance money that will be doled out. Leaving those in the hinterlands of Texas to dodge potholes.

It’s obvious that our current situation has been foreseen for many years by our state leaders. It must have been seen by the governor, those who have served on the Transportation Commission, legislators, etc.., back even before the TTC, HB 3588, and the Texas Mobility fund was dreamed up. They knew they needed more money and they made a decision about how to get it. They had a choice, go back on their no tax pledges, and raise the gas tax, or put forth a something-for-nothing scheme with an Orwellian name, that would escape more voters notice, and allow them not to raise the gas tax. We know what they decided.

Whether were out of money or not, at this point, is not the main issue. It’s been obvious for a while that we need more money in this state for roads. The debate is, and has been, over what it the best way take care of that need. But as long as this debate is conducted in a crisis mode it doesn’t bode well for the outcome. If we’ve learned anything over the last 7 years hopefully it’s that when scare tactics are used it makes people more open to suggestion and illogical arguments. This issue is solvable in a way that benefits us all, but no one in our state government has put forth that plan yet, and that’s why we need new leadership.

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