Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Every candidate running for a state office this primary season has probably fielded pointed questions about the TTC...It’s not a popular idea."

Bumpy road ahead for TxDOT

March 27, 2008

Michael Gresham, Editor & Publisher
The Kaufman Herald
Copyright 2008

Walking across the square last week, I got stopped by Sam Lalumia.

I thought the local restauranteur wanted to bend my ear about some free publicity for his recently beautifully renovated building on the square.

However, this time, Sam was on a different mission — it’s one he’s had for a while.

Sam, and many other folks, are concerned about what he referred to as “Dead Man’s Corner,” a portion of Farm-to-Market Road 987 in Post Oak Bend.

If you’ve ever traveled FM 987, you know the spot: it’s a stretch of uneven road that jostles you along right before you make a sharp turn to avoid a massive tree that appears to sit right where the shoulder of the road should be.

Sam’s seen too many wrecks there and he wants the Texas Department of Transportation to do something about it.

He’s not alone.

Unfortunately, he’s in a long line of people who want TxDOT to fix road woes across this state.

I’m sorry to tell Sam that I don’t have any answers for him yet on getting that problem resolved. Like him, though, I believe something needs to be done and I’ll keep poking around until we find an answer.

That being said, we may all need to understand the political landscape involving TxDOT.

While close to home we’d like to smooth out a few problems on our local highways, there appears to be some major bumps in the road for TxDOT in the near future.

In February, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick asked the state auditor to perform a comprehensive review of the “entire financial process of TxDOT.” That request came after a senate hearing investigating the financial state of TxDOT.

According to TxDOT, transportation leaders have identified $188 billion in needed construction projects to create an acceptable transportation system in Texas by 2030. Although TxDOT estimates $102 billion will be available during the next 25 years, Texans will still end up a with a transportation funding gap of $86 billion.

Simply put, TxDOT has more in its shopping cart than it can afford.

There are a number of plans being floated out there on how to address this shortfall in funds. One is the dreaded toll road. In addition to smaller toll roads run sometimes by private entities, this solution also calls for the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.

I’m not a fan of toll roads myself and apparently, I’m not alone.

Meanwhile, every candidate running for a state office this primary season has probably fielded pointed questions about the Tran-Texas Corridor. At least around these parts, it’s not a popular idea.

During the last legislative session, property taxes and school finance were highlighted as the big problems needing to be addressed. I imagine this next session, the spotlight will be turned on Texas roadways. Construction and maintenance costs continue to escalate and the number of requests to fix roads is stacking up faster than cars at the intersection of Washington Street and U.S. Hwy. 175 during rush hour.

Texas leaders have to find a new way to keep up our roads.

Until they do, Sam and I along with the rest of Kaufman County may be in for a rough ride.


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