Thursday, March 15, 2007

TxDOT throws away another $300 million (and asks for more toll roads)

TxDOT Expects $300M Cut In Highway Funds

March 15, 2007

KXAN (NBC) Austin
Copyright 2007

If you like toll roads, you may be in luck.

More "pay to drive" highways could be on the way.

The Texas Department of Transportation on Thursday said it expects to have to return nearly $300 million in unspent highway funds to the federal government.

That's on top of another $305 million Washington took back over the past 15 months.

KXAN's Jim Swift reports on what the cuts will mean for Texas drivers.

Traffic noise.

How bad is it?

Well, consider this: According to TxDOT, over the past quarter-century, our use of roads grew 95 percent while road capacity rose only 8 percent.

Over the next 25 years, road use is expected to climb a whopping 214 percent, with capacity rising even less than before, by just 6 percent.

It gets worse: The agency said by 2030, what it calls an "acceptable level of mobility" will require $188 billion, but it estimated available funds of only $102 billion, leaving a funding gap of $86 billion.

"We want to get some public input," said TxDOT spokesman Randall Dillard. "We were criticized the last time we dealt with a federal transportation cut that we didn't take public input. So that's what we want to do this time. We'll take that input, and our commission will make the difficult decisions that have to be made.

"We're feeling the heat that people complain about being stuck in traffic every day," Dillard continued. "That they can't get home in time to get to their son or daughter's softball game or baseball game. We're hearing the heat that the congestion that people have to deal with every day impacts their quality of life, and they don't like it. That's one of the things that we're hearing loud and clear, and we've got a plan to try and address that."

The Texas Transportation Commission has planned a public meeting for Thursday morning at 9 a.m. to hear suggestions on how the latest federal cuts should be absorbed. The meeting will be downtown at TxDOT headquarters, 125 E. 11th St.

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