But How To Spend All That Money?
by: Gail Delaughter, March 5, 2012 10:03:00 am
TxDOT officials say they came up with the money after months of carefully looking at project budgets and new sources of federal funding.
"We know that we'll have as much as an additional $2 billion over the next two years that we'll be able to use to facilitate construction on some of the state's high-priority projects."
That's TxDOT's Karen Amacker. The agency maintains over 80,000 miles of roads around Texas and Amacker says the additional funds present a one-time opportunity to jump-start critical work in four main areas.
"One is addressing congestion. Another is safety. A third is the maintenance of our existing system. And then connectivity, making sure we're connecting the major urban centers and the major economic development centers of our state."
But where did the money come from? Amacker says the amount of federal dollars coming in is higher than anticipated. There's also another $600 million in state funds.
"And another $650 million, roughly, is related to savings from instituting some new sound fiscal management efforts, and related to projects whose costs came in lower than originally estimated."
As for the next step in the process, Amacker says TxDOT will now meet with Metropolitan Planning Commissions around the state, along with community groups, to decide on the most important projects that need to be funded.
So how much money could the Houston area possibly receive?
"In the past, I think based on the kind of percentages we've seen, it could be up to $300 million or more."
Alan Clark is Director of Transportation Planning for the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
"In quarters where motorists are every day stuck in traffic, we're wasting fuel, polluting the air."
Clark says they'd like to use some of the money for congestion relief on some of the region's well-traveled freeways. He says one project that currently isn't funded is work on U.S. Highway 290 between the 610 Loop and Beltway 8. They's also concerned about segments of U.S. 59 and I-45. Another high-priority is Highway 288 coming in from Pearland. If some of the money is earmarked for Houston, Clark expects those funds to be allocated sometime in the next year, with projects quickly going on the fast track.