Question is: So where is the voter-approved $1.7 billion in additional transportation funding resulting from passage of Proposition 1 headed? And, is it enough to bridge the funding gap that exists in efforts to meet state highway and bridge needs?
The first question was answered Thursday when the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor’s Office approved a plan for distributing the FY 2015 funds using formulas adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission. And, the answer to the second question regarding if it is enough is a resounding, “No.”
The additional $1.7 billion headed to the State Highway Fund for use by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for transportation projects was approved in a November statewide referendum. The total amount allocated to TxDOT for road and bridge maintenance and construction was established for FY 2015 after a recent determination of the minimum amount of money that must be retained in the rainy day fund, per the language of the constitutional amendment.
Here’s how the FY 2015 funds will be distributed:
40 percent (about $700 million) will be distributed among metropolitan planning organizations statewide; 30 percent (around $522 million) will be allocated to TxDOT districts to improve connectivity; 15 percent (about $261 million) will go to TxDOT districts for maintenance needs; and 15 percent (another $261 million) will be used to address road problems in areas affected by increased traffic due to growth in oil and gas exploration in some areas of the state.
Even with additional $1.7 billion, TxDOT says funding gap to remain into future…
The amount of money that will be distributed to TxDOT each year will depend on state oil and gas severance tax revenues. Proposition 1 authorized dedication of about half of those proceeds, all of which previously had gone to the rainy day fund, to the State Highway Fund for TxDOT to use for road and bridge issues. But, the amount of the allocation each year will depend on what is available for distribution after the minimum rainy day fund balance is achieved.
Even with the additional $1.7 billion in funds, TxDOT officials say that will still not be enough to adequately take care of the state’s road and bridge needs. They say that the extra funding is a good first step, but that a gap still exists between what’s needed and what’s available to properly maintain the state transportation system. They predict that funding challenges for the state’s transportation needs will continue.
TxDOT officials have repeatedly told lawmakers that the agency needs an additional estimated $5 billion per year over its usual allocation simply to maintain current road and bridge conditions in the state. Even with additional funding approved by Texas voters, that annual deficit is expected to continue into the future.