Infrastructure and Transportation in Central Texas: Addressing the Issues

Infrastructure and transportation are essential components of any economy, especially in a state as large and rapidly growing as Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is responsible for the state highway system, while local governments maintain the rest. Public passenger transport is provided by dozens of urban and rural transport systems and eight metropolitan transit authorities, who obtain their operational funding through local rates and sources and capital funds. Commercial airports receive most of their funding from federal grants and local sources, as well as from terminal concessions, car rentals, and parking services.

General aviation airports receive state and federal funding, but rely mainly on hangar rental and fuel sales. The state's largest ports typically receive about half of their funding from public sources (federal grants and local bond issues) and the other half from user fees; smaller ports tend to also rely on tax subsidies. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) tracks the costs of traffic congestion in urban areas of the country due to delays and fuel waste. However, instead of investing in infrastructure, many states have reduced taxes and offered corporate subsidies with the wrong approach to boosting economic growth. The Central Texas Corridor (8) law designates a future I-14 North and a future I-14 South in West Texas.

Three Texas ports, Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, are among the 10 busiest ports in the country in terms of tonnage handled. Revenue collection remains below historical averages as a percentage of the economy in many states, suggesting that there is room to increase taxes if it comes to major investments in roads, public transportation, schools and other infrastructure. Texas state tax rates on motor fuels have not changed since 1991, despite a significant decline in the purchasing power of every tax dollar. In addition to ongoing maintenance, major Texas ports have expansion needs driven by factors such as the recent expansion of the Panama Canal. In a video message sent to the group, Congressman Brian Babin from East Texas said he believes that I-14 can be an example to the nation that Congress does the right thing when it comes to transportation. Across the United States, years of neglect have led to crumbling roads, the need to repair bridges, inadequate public transportation, outdated school buildings, and other critical infrastructure needs.

The IIJA orders that the north-south interstate routes in Texas and Mississippi carry separate interstate route numbers once completed. In addition, the relatively small but rapidly growing number of all-electric vehicles in Texas don't pay any fuel taxes. While the development of Interstate 14 in Texas will take decades, corridor improvement projects are gaining momentum and are supported by TxDOT. Texas will also have the opportunity to apply for grants in a variety of categories in addition to these funds. Roland Peña, director of economic development for the city of San Angelo also referred to long-term energy development in West Texas and the importance of transportation in contributing to the growth of the energy industry. The state of Texas is facing a number of challenges when it comes to infrastructure and transportation.

From crumbling roads to inadequate public transportation systems, there is much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that Texans have access to safe and reliable transportation options. Fortunately, there are a number of initiatives underway that are aimed at addressing these issues. The Central Texas Corridor (8) law designates a future I-14 North and a future I-14 South in West Texas which will help alleviate traffic congestion throughout the state. In addition, TxDOT is working with local governments on various projects aimed at improving infrastructure throughout Central Texas.

Finally, Congressman Brian Babin has expressed his support for I-14 as an example for other states when it comes to transportation initiatives. In order for these initiatives to be successful however, they must be adequately funded. Unfortunately, revenue collection remains below historical averages as a percentage of the economy in many states which means that there may not be enough money available for these projects without increasing taxes or offering corporate subsidies. Additionally, all-electric vehicles do not pay any fuel taxes which further reduces available funds for infrastructure projects. Despite these challenges however, there is still hope for improving infrastructure and transportation throughout Central Texas. With adequate funding from both public sources such as federal grants or local bond issues as well as user fees from commercial airports or ports, these projects can become a reality.

In addition, grants from various categories can help provide additional funds for these initiatives. With continued support from both local governments and Congressmen such as Brian Babin, Central Texans can look forward to improved infrastructure and transportation options in the near future.