North Central Texas Council of Governments Assistant Director of Transportation Dan Kessler delivered some grave news to leaders at the Northeast Tarrant County Transportation Summit: “Mobility for the 21st Century,” telling attendees that Texas is in a funding crisis.
He says construction costs rose 50% from 2002 to 2007, and Texas is annually diverting $1 billion of state transportation revenue to non-transportation purposes. To prevent more congestion, costs are estimated at an $487-billion investment with only $155 billion budgeted, meaning the state is looking at a $332 billion deficit, he tells Texas Construction.
“Money will not solve our entire problem,” Kessler says. “The key is identifying a long-term sustainable source; a gas tax is not the answer. We’ve got to place greater emphasis on land use and transportation; we need a multi-modal system.”
Some of the biggest transportation concerns don’t involve roads, Kessler says. Congress is depositing general revenues to the Highway Trust Fund; states are facing multiple rescissions in SAFETEA-LU program obligation authority; TxDOT is using Proposition 12 bonds backed by general revenues for transportation funding and Proposition 14 bonds backed by Fund 006 and borrowing money to meet monthly cash flow needs. Transportation project costs are increasing as regional projects languish despite innovative financing.
If revenues are maintained at the status quo, Kessler says peak-period travel times.
Kessler says a local option revenue model features toll roads, managed lanes, public-private partnerships including comprehensive development agreements, local bond programs authorizing local option elections for mobility improvement fee or motor fuels taxes, sub-allocation of TxDOT funding programs and leveraging local dollars.
Failure to address transportation funding needs could put gas-tax funded capacity projects at risk, Kessler says. Legislative delays lead to greater imbalance with more toll projects, and current infrastructure will not be maintained, especially bridges, he adds.
Future implications to general tax revenue from Texas legislative inaction could result in inefficient project delivery, wasted maintenance now and an eventual cost increasing significantly higher, Kessler says.