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Texas' Underfunded Roadways Get Spotlight at Capitol Hearing

A new transportation working group has reconvened to find a way to connect regional mass transit lines in Central Texas that include highway managed lanes and rail lines.
Daniel Reese
A select Texas House Committee on Transportation hosted a hearing on May 6, 2014 at the Capitol to discuss the unfunded transportation need in Texas.

A select Texas House Committee on Transportation is reviewing the underfunded transportation needs in Texas – and it’s having a difficult time.

"I don’t want to make this so much of a basic 101, but transportation financing and funding is very complicated for the people that are involved, let alone those who are not," says state Rep. Joe Pickett, (D-El Paso), the committee’s chair.

Panel members heard from experts like David Ellis, a senior research scientist with the Texas A&M  Transportation Institute. He says the Texas Department of Transportation needs $4 billion more annually to maintain the current quality of roads. That’s on top of the $10 billion a year spent now on road construction and upkeep. He says wear and tear also costs drivers more.

"Road quality begins to deteriorate, which then ultimately affects what we call road-user cost," Ellis says. "The cost that it costs you to use your vehicle on the road because your tires wear out quicker, because your fuel efficiency goes down."

In Texas, motorists have been paying a state 20-cent fuel tax since 1991. But because of inflation, it doesn’t amount to enough money, Ellis says. This November, voters will be asked to approve or reject a constitutional amendment that would transfer oil and gas tax dollars from the state’s Rainy Day Fund into a state highway fund.  

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