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The Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, oversees Texas transportation and is headquartered in Austin. The Texas Legislature created the organization in 1917, although the agency has had several names throughout the past century.TxDOT is run by a five-member commission and an executive director selected by the commission. Commission members are appointed by the governor, with the advice of the Texas Senate, and serve overlapping six-year terms.The department is divided into 25 districts, each of which oversees construction and maintenance of state highways. Austin’s district includes Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Lee, Llano, Mason, Travis and Williamson counties.In Austin, the organization encompasses entities including Capital Metro; the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, known as CAMPO; the city’s transportation department; and the chamber of commerce. TxDOT organized the “Don’t Mess with Texas” anti-litter campaign, which began in 1986. Also, it runs the TxTag program, which bills drivers for highway tolls by scanning a sticker on the driver’s windshield at toll stations.

County Commissioners Say Maintaining Roads Costs Counties

Gov. Rick Perry’s addition of transportation to the special session yesterday may mean more funding for Texas highways.

But Travis County Commissioners sent a letter today to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House arguing the Texas Department of Transportation relies too heavily on Central Texas counties to fund improvements to the state highway system.

Commissioners endorsed the transportation overhaul SJR 2,which would divert half of all oil and gas taxes away from the Rainy Day fund and into a state highway fund. Commissioners say that a lack of upkeep forces counties to choose between congested roadways and leveraging local debt to improve state highways.

But newly-appointed Precinct Two Commissioner Bruce Todd said that the extra TXDoT funding in SJR 2 would alleviate some of the countywide burden.

“What this will do is put more money in TXDoT’s coffers that it can use on these kinds of things,” Todd said “And hopefully reduce some of the pressure on counties to actually partner with the state in fixing state roads, freeing up some money for us to do some improvements to our county road system.”

Precinct One Commissioner Ron Davis says that even if SJR 2 passes and the Texas Department of Transportation is better funded to maintain roads, counties still have to compete for the money.

“What I’m trying to avoid in the future [is] that the competition would get to the point to where we’d get left out,” Davis said. “Because we have gotten left out in the past … and we’ll have to compete just like anybody else.”

The Texas Conference of Urban Countiesalso petitioned the governor to place infrastructure on the call this special session. If SJR 2 passes, the final decision on whether to proceed with the transportation fund would be put to voters this fall. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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