Friday, August 17, 2001

Perry backs highway amendments

Gov. Perry backs highway bonds

August 17, 2001

Bryon Okada, Staff Writer
Fort Worth Star-Telegram Copyright 2001

Gov. Rick Perry urged civic leaders Thursday to start a grass-roots campaign to get out the vote Nov. 6 to support two propositions that would allow the state to issue bonds for extensive road construction.

Perry said Texas highways must become a top priority with the public as well as public officials, and touted Proposition 15 and Proposition 2. The proposed constitutional amendments were drafted by the Legislature as steppingstones to better mobility.

Proposition 15 would authorize the state to issue debt for highway construction, if leverage funds can be secured during the next legislative session. It would also allow state money to be used for toll road construction.

Proposition 2 would make bond funds available to repair roads in border colonias.

"This is the future of the state of Texas, literally in the balance," Perry said. "Unless we mobilize in the next 90 days, progress will not keep up with our vision."

A year ago Perry, then lieutenant governor, used the Texas Transportation Summit in Irving as a bully pulpit to call for abandonment of the state pay-as-you-go method of transportation funding. This year, flanked by elected officials and transportation advocates at the same conference, he rallied support for highway bonds.

Officials called the idea a bold departure from the past.

"It would be the most significant change since the interstate was completed - it's that important," Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert Nichols said.

The state annually allocates about $4 billion to highway maintenance and construction. It generally devotes 60 percent of the money to maintenance and 40 percent to construction, Nichols said.

The state has only enough funds to handle 36 percent of the highway projects proposed. Although it was unclear how much money Proposition 15 would bring - that would be for state legislators to haggle about during the 2003 session - Nichols estimated that the toll road part of the proposition alone could generate billions in additional projects.

Proposition 2would bring more than $175 million to the unkept roads of neighborhoods established in unincorporated areas, usually along the border, that have few or no utilities.

Bryon Okada, (817) 685-3853

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