TXDOT Lacking Funds for New Roads in 2012

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - The future of Texas roads could be off to a bumpy start come next year. The Texas Department of Transportation won't have enough funds for certain projects in 2012.

TXDOT is fully funded through 2011, but it's a different story for 2012. That's because the department does not expect to have any funds for new projects next year.

This time it doesn't have anything to do with the budget crisis, but their fate could still be left in the hands of state lawmakers.

"Texas has the best roads in the nation, you hear that everywhere you go and we're at risk of losing that prestige," Gene Powell, Public Information Officer with TXDOT, said.

That's because they wont have the money to fund new road projects.

Right now, their budget allows about $1.2 million for new construction.

"You improve safety, you improve mobility, you improve quality of life," Powell said. "Those are the kinds of things we look at for new roads."

But a TXDOT committee estimated the state would need $315 billion between now and 2030 just to keep up.

"The gasoline tax as it is right now, and the motor vehicle tax as it is right now, produce enough money to maintain roads," Powell said. "They don't produce enough money for a lot of new roads."

The department is funded by money from gas taxes and vehicle registrations.

TXDOT gets 15 cents of every dollar spent on gas, but that can only produce so much.

"That's a pretty flat source of revenue because of better fuel efficiency, different kinds of transportation like buses or in some of the cities that have modern rails," Powell said.

And Texas drivers will feel the pinch.

"What you won't see is what you'll miss which is any improvements to Highway 191 or taking JBS further south," Powell said. "Those are the kind of things that just wont happen because of a lack of funding."

Some ideas on how to fix this problem include increasing the gas tax and raising the cost of vehicle registrations. According to a financial study by TXDOT, a ten dollar increase could generate nearly $200 million more a year and Texans would still be saving money compared to other states.

"In California it's over $450 to register some vehicles. In Texas, it's like $60," Powell said.

But with new road construction averaging about a million dollars a mile, those decisions will be up to state legislators.

"What the legislature has to do is decide how much they want to spend beyond 2012 in new road construction," Powell said. "They work really hard and we appreciate everything they do but there's a lot of things they've got to work through."