TxDOT shifts maintenance money to new road construction

Link to article here.

We all know TxDOT has been manipulating their budget to make it look like the gas tax will only cover road maintenance and no new road construction so they can push their toll road agenda. Sworn testimony in TURF’s lawsuit to stop TxDOT from using taxpayer money to sell tolls roads and the Trans Texas Corridor shows TxDOT has also moved up when a highway needs to be re-surfaced by 10 years from the industry standard in order to blow through their maintenance money even faster. So with that said, it still makes no sense to shift money from maintenance to building new roads if they claim there isn’t enough money to maintain them!

Panel relents, shifting $5 billion to new roadways
By Patrick Driscoll

The Texas Transportation Commission, buckling to pressure, decided Thursday to let highways decay some during the next decade rather than follow through on a scare to choke off all construction money — including funds for the U.S. 281 toll road.
Commissioners recently drew heat after saying funds were too scarce to cover both maintenance and construction, and that keeping roads in good shape was more important.

But commissioners, apparently feeling that keeping testy state lawmakers off their backs is even more important, voted 4-0 to shift $5 billion from maintenance to construction.

“Philosophically, I don’t think you let your house deteriorate and then go build a new garage,” Commissioner Ted Houghton said before casting his aye. “I think we’re headed down, no pun intended, a very rocky road.”

Among construction projects saved from the chopping block is the 8-mile U.S. 281 tollway north of Loop 1604 in San Antonio, which needs $112 million in public money along with toll-backed bonds for construction to get under way this year.

However, another $213 million public subsidy for toll lanes and interchange ramps along Loop 1604, from Culebra Road to U.S. 281, has been slashed to $104 million, which means some parts could be delayed, said Terry Brechtel of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority.

“So one of our projects will get delayed if the Legislature doesn’t come up with new funding,” she said.

State lawmakers next year could authorize funds to support $6.5 billion worth of transportation bonds. The Texas Department of Transportation says that would provide about $5.2 billion for roadwork after engineering and land-purchase costs are subtracted.

How much of that could be redirected back into maintenance is unknown. Legislators could attach strings, and transportation commissioners would also have designs on it.

“If things should change, we can restore the money back into maintenance,” commission Chairwoman Hope Andrade said.

The Transportation Commission’s 11-year outlook leaves $12 billion for maintenance, half of what’s needed to meet a goal of getting nine out of 10 roads in good condition.

Officials estimate that just 80 percent of roads will be in good shape by 2019, down 7 percent from today. By then, $9 billion more will be needed to reach the 90 percent goal.