Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Trans-Texas Corridor has been pronounced 'dead,' although critics have said the corpse still breathes."

The top issues of the 81st session: Transportation

The Texas Department of Transportation is coming under Sunset, but that may be just the beginning of things.


by Mark Lavergne
Volume 13, Issue 25
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2009

Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) has a vision: high speed rail, which has recently been gaining traction among some North Texas elected officials. The controversy, of course, will occur over how to pay for the rail plan.

To relieve some of the pressure for more toll roads, Carona has proposed raising the gas tax, including indexing it to inflation. He has already filed the proposed constitutional amendment SJR 8, which if passed and endorsed by voters, would allow the Legislature to authorize the State Comptroller to adjust the gas tax.

Some lawmakers, including Carona, have indicated that the agency has already made considerable strides in the two years since the 80th session. Still, the agency will have some major reforms coming its way. Among those being advanced by lawmakers is an overall shrinking of the agency by trimming away its functions down to the Big Two: building roads and maintaining them. To that end, Sunset has recommended placing TxDOT’s vehicle registry and other functions under a new Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Trans-Texas Corridor has been pronounced “dead,” although critics have said the corpse still breathes. Watch for what happens with Comprehensive Development Agreements, which are the partnerships forged between the state government and private corporations that build toll roads.

Carona has also filed SJR 9, aimed at stopping diversions from Fund 6 so that it can go towards its original purpose: building and maintaining roads.

Of course, there is closely tied in with transportation issues the matter of eminent domain reform. We’ll discuss that issue next week.

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