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Texas Transportation Institute Quantifies the Cost of Congestion

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When the legislature passed the General Appropriations Act during the last session, they included a provision under Rider 42, requiring TxDOT to use $300 million of the Proposition 12 bond proceeds to conduct a feasibility study, perform project planning, and outsource engineering work for the most congested roadway segments for each of the four most congested regions of the state of Texas: Dallas and Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Rider 42 further requires the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) to serve as a facilitator and project coordinator of studies conducted by the four most congested regions to determine which projects would have the greatest impact with congestion, economic benefit, user cost, safety, and pavement quality as the major considerations. Further, they were to identify funding options to support completion of the projects and suggest the best use of future revenue for the projects. They were to include implementation of best traffic and demand management practices and to ensure open and transparent public participation. They were required to make a recommendation to the department at each major decision point of the project.

The initial report was accepted by the Texas Transportation Commission on February 23. When TTI submitted their early recommendations report to the commission, they noted that they had obtained substantial input and recognized regional coordinators and authors that aided the study. Contributions were received from the metropolitan area agencies.

The roadway with the highest rated for need of expansion was IH 45 in Harris County from SL 8 north to IH 610, with 484.630 annual hours of delay per mile. The total annual hours of delay were 4,507,059 with an annual delay cost of $98 million. Second rated was US 59 in Harris County from IH 610 west to SH 288 with 440,416 annual hours of delay per mile, and 2,422,287 annual hours of delay. The annual cost of delay was $52.7 million. Third, IH 635 in Dallas County from IH 35 east to US 75 with 432,244 annual hours of delay with an annual delay of 3,414,730. The annual cost of delay for that project is $74.3 million. Fourth, and the second most costly delay project, is IH 35 in Travis County from SH 71 to US 183. It has 421,778 annual hours of delay per mile with a total of 3,880,359 annual hours of delay at an annual cost of delay of $84.4 million. Fifth was the Woodall Rogers Freeway in Dallas County from IH 35 to US 75 with an annual hours of delay per mile of 339,861 and annual hours of delay of 636,577 at a cost of $13.9 million. You will note that the rating used is based on the annual hours of delay per mile.

We can anticipate follow-up reports that will be even more comprehensive in outlining various financial solutions to address these highly congested areas. We look forward to reviewing this data with our state legislators before next session.

On the national level it appears that Congress will fund the federalaid highway program at the current level. When TxDOT calculated available funds for this biennium, they made the assumption that the federal allocation would be based on revenue received. Congress has subsequently indicated very strongly that they will continue to fund our highway program at the current level, which is approximately 30% above the revenue going to the highway trust fund. This means that Congress will have to come up with additional revenue by either increasing taxes or by using revenue from other sources. It appears that we will have a 2-year bill, and the additional revenue will come from existing taxes being collected that will now become part of the highway trust fund. With that change along with cost savings developed within the department we will see an additional $2 billion in construction during the next two years.

Another very positive action on the part of the department was the recent transfer of $24 million from scheduled maintenance in-house to the budget for contracted maintenance. The department has been extremely strong on privatization of their maintenance and other construction activity.

The chapter’s Highway Funding Task Force continues to be extremely active. A massive program is underway to identify potential allies as we encourage additional funding for the road program in Texas. In addition, the chapter will continue to work with TTI as well as key members of the legislature to determine mechanisms to fund our future highway program. Not only has the debt for highways reached an alarmingly high level, but the overall debt of state government disturbing. We expect the comptroller to issue a study in the very near future outlining the amount of debt that we currently have in Texas. It is generally felt that there will be a need to increase our funding; however, it is generally felt that that increase must come from either existing revenues or an expansion of dedicated funds rather than additional bonding.

It has been noted that the regional water authorities are beginning to take advantage of the recently passed Texas Water Development Board bonds. That market should continue to expand over the next several years.

In summary, we anticipate a healthy letting schedule for this year and next year and expect a very lively session in 2013, as it is highly possible we will have a substantial number of new elected officials determining our future funding. On both the national and state level, the public appears to be in support of funding their highways, and it is also apparent that the public is tired of massive delays caused by congestion. Everyone will have an opportunity to participate in helping expand our program in the months and years to come.

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