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When it Comes To Traffic, Everything's Bigger in Texas

KUT News

Everything's bigger in Texas – or so the saying goes. But after years of population growth, many are worried the Lone Star State is experiencing the hidden costs of its prosperity.

The Texas Standard's David Brown recently sat down with Wall Street Journal reporter Nathan Koppel to discuss strains on state infrastructure.

"It's great for the state, and you'd certainly rather be Texas than other parts of the country that are losing population, but it is a challenge for Texas," Koppel explains. "Just the sheer pace of the population increase has been difficult to manage, particularly for cities which are just booming. "

According to the latest U.S. census data, eight of the nation's 15 fastest-growing large cities and towns are in Texas.

"The problem is that roads are getting congested, it's harder to find affordable places for people to live, and water scarcity is a real problem," Koppel says. "So big city mayors are having to think about sustainability more perhaps than they have in a long, long time."

Local officials, however, are having a tough time allocating money for things like new roads and schools without raising taxes. Despite Texas' low tax model being credited as a part of the state's success, Koppel says some businesses are beginning to advocate for tax increases. Texas-based grocer H-E-B recently referred to the cost of traffic congestion as a "hidden tax."

"H-E-B may spend more time as a company on Texas roads than just about anyone," Koppel says. "They have to spend so much time stuck in traffic it can be a real burden to the company. They're so eager to see more roads built, and roads repaired, that a consultant to the company said that they would favor an increase in gas taxes. That would cost the company a great deal, but they said there is a hidden tax for having to sit in traffic so long. Congestion costs the company as well."