The Decade of Transportation
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
July 28, 2005
Fellow Bexar Countians: Hang on for dear life! We are in the middle of the "Decade of Transportation". We all know our traffic jams have become greater and they will get worse if we do nothing! That poses the big question: What is the intelligent thing to do? Also, what can we do now that we will look back on with pride in the future?
It seems that almost anywhere we travel, we deal with at least some of the trip involving roads under construction. Take I-10 East and West on the north side of San Antonio. Take the long overdue but soon to get off "dead center" 281 North and North Loop 410, not to mention the hoped for interchanges at both I-10 East or West at Loop 1604 and 281 North and Loop 1604.
What's causing the perpetual construction experience we have been having over the past twenty or so years? There are many causes. I will cover just a few: 1. Our population has increased 57% from 1980 when we had 14,229,191 residents in Texas to 22,118,509 in 2003. 2. With population increase, registered vehicles increased 61% from 11.7 million in 1980 to 18.9 million in 2003. 3. Despite the population and vehicle growth, lane miles only grew by 7.6% over this same time period.
In addition, The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) informs us of the obvious: that existing roads must be fixed and new ones built to assure safe and efficient movement of us and the goods we demand. Due to the increasing gas efficiency of more modern vehicles, we use less gas and therefore less tax is collected. This problem will only increase as gas saunters up to $3.00 per gallon.
TXDOT further informs us that there is a $100 million funding gap between the cost to just maintain existing roadways and transportation revenue generated by the 20 cent per gallon state gas tax. As the transportation system ages, maintenance costs outpace funding for increasing capacity.
Gas Tax Facts
Federal Tax - 18.4 Cents
State Tax - 20.0 Cents
Total Gas Tax in Texas - 38.4 Cents
At first blush, whether the amount of the gas tax appears to be about right or not, the following illustrates how the allocation reduces the availability of the "gas" tax to something less.
Allocation of Texas Gas Tax Monies
State (20 Cents Per Gallon) - Federal (18.4 Cents Per Gallon)
Public Education: 23% - Used in Texas: 85%
Non-transportation: 5% - Used in Other States: 15%
Transportation Projects: 72%
TXDOT says if we were to raise the state gas tax by 5 cents per gallon, it would only generate about $500 million annually for transportation, about enough for two major highway interchanges. To maintain existing roadways and build added capacity to meet Texas' needs, the State gas tax would have to be raised about a dollar per gallon. And we still haven't solved the problem that lower consumption of gas produces lower taxes.
The above information is that of TXDOT. I do not agree with TXDOT all of the time, but when I was a member of the Texas Legislature, I believed that TXDOT was one of the finest of our state agencies. I believe it still is even if I reserve the right to disagree with them at times.
One of the initiatives I am skeptical about is the Trans-Texas Corridor. I also doubt the wisdom of allowing a private consortium to have a 50-year deal on building and governing our local toll roads even if the Texas Company has a fine reputation. It just seems that the public will expect their public officials to be in control of public roads and highways should anything go wrong. I do not feel comfortable ceding away serious responsibility over which the public expects me to be in accountable.
You will hear more as I discern the facts on the Trans-Texas Corridor project and any local toll road development.