Next up: transportation worries

Texas is proud of its roads and highways. It has many hundreds of thousands of miles of them crisscrossing the huge state.

They’re in bad shape. Not all of them, mind you. Many of them, though, need work.

Texas is strapped for money to fix all the roads, highways and bridges. The federal government can help, but it cannot do it all.

Look for transportation worries to be a major “back story” in this election year and when the Texas Legislature convenes in January 2015, according to a story written for the Texas Tribune by Aman Batheja.

http://www.panhandlepbs.org/news/texas-tribune/texas-road-funding-woes-nab-spotlight/

Despite Texas’s huge population growth, it hasn’t increased transportation spending in real terms for the past two decades, Batheja reports: Batheja writes: “’Our transportation funding sources really haven’t been increased in over 20 years,’” said Scott Haywood, president of Move Texas Forward, a business-backed coalition that supports investments in transportation infrastructure. ‘With the tremendous growth Texas has seen, our current revenue sources have not kept pace.’”

The state is going to ask voters to amend its Constitution this fall with an amendment that could provide $1.4 billion annually in additional highway spending. The money would be diverted from the Rainy Day Fund, under a measure approved last year by a special legislative session. Since it requires an amendment to the Texas Constitution, all voters get a chance to vote on it. The measure is on the November ballot.

Batheja reports further: “State Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the Texas congressional delegation on the issue. In meetings with Republican U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, as well as several U.S. House members, he stressed the value of a long-term funding solution that would allow transportation planners to better prepare for projects several years in the future.

“’Kicking the can down the road four months at a time or six months at a time is horrible,’ Nichols said. ‘I recognize the realities of the problem that they’re dealing with. All I can do is tell them the importance of a long-term plan.’”

Is this a big deal? Of course it is. Texans love their motor vehicles. I’ve lived in West Texas for nearly two decades and I learned right away that in order to get anywhere from Amarillo, you have to drive a good distance.

I don’t think I’m alone in believing it is better to drive on well-maintained roads and highways that risk traveling over thoroughfares that are falling apart.

Keep both hands on the wheel as transportation becomes a big story this year.

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