We are all familiar with how fast Texas is growing. This growth has placed a burden on the state’s highway system. As the population increases, so do the number of vehicles. This has been the situation for a number of years and currently there is no reason to believe that the increase in traffic due to growth will decrease.
If you live in or near one of our great cities, you can see directly how traffic is being negatively affected with this growth. There should be no question about it; we need more urban and rural highway capacity.
There is a lot of false information out there about some of the ways Texas could cope with the state’s enormous increase in daily traffic. For example, some say that building freeway managed toll lanes and toll roads by foreign companies is part of a conspiracy against Texas. When in fact it does not make a difference who builds the highway, if it is built on Texas land and will benefit Texans.
Another fact about tolling where it is justified by traffic demands is that Texans can get the projects now, not years from now when and if we finally have the money.
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In addition, not everyone realizes that the fixed gas tax that was established to fund highway improvements is a diminishing revenue source. It has remained the same for the past 25 years. Now, 25 years later vehicles get better gas mileage thereby putting more miles (wear and tear) on our highways, and because of inflation it funds less new traffic capacity with the revenue earned.
There is also a false belief by some that the Texas Transportation Commission has intentionally allocated all available funding to rural projects to limit funding for urban projects as a way to force toll roads on our cities. The facts simply do not support this belief. The Commission’s 10-year program allocates only 14 percent of $70 billion in funding to the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT’s) rural districts.
Finally, there is the false belief by some who have been working for the Sunset Commission that TxDOT could not effectively spend more highway money even if it was available. The facts are that all Texans would see considerable improvements to congestion relief on our highways if TxDOT had the funding to construct the many urgently needed highway improvements.
Unfortunately, Texas is past the period where one solution will solve our transportation needs. In order to improve the traffic congestion now and better plan for the millions of additional people moving into Texas, the state transportation leaders must have multiple mobility options and more funding options.
That is why it is essential that the false information being spread about some of the tools mentioned above be corrected so that we have as many options as possible to improve mobility in Texas. High speed rail and commuter rail will not solve all of the state’s transportation challenges,but when combined in the right balance with urban and rural highways could be the solution we need.
Oscar Trevino in the Mayor of North Richland Hills and a member of the Regional Transportation Council.