AGC’s NOI (Notice Of Intent) Task Force met in December with TxDOT and TCEQ officials to discuss ongoing issues. From left to right: Bill Hale, TxDOT Chief Engineer; David Galindo, TCEQ Director of Water Quality; Robert Adamson, Longview Bridge and Road; Task Force Chairman Bob Lanham (Williams Bros. Construction); Johnny Weisman (Hunter Industries); and Brad Everett (J.D. Abrams).
PROPOSITION 7, Which has passed with an astonishing 83 percent of votes in favor of the measure in November 2015, will fundamentally improve transportation funding for years to come. Under its provisions, $2.5 billion from sales tax revenues will be deposited into the State Highway Fund after the first $28 billion in collections. This will begin in FY 2018. It also calls for 35 percent above the first $5 billion from net motor vehicle sales and rental tax revenue to go to transportation, with this provision becoming effective in FY 2020.
In dollars and cents, this could net at least $2.5 billion each year to improve the state’s highways and bridges. It’s important to note that under the legislation, the money deposited to the State Highway Fund can only be used to build, maintain and acquire right of way for public roads or possibly pay debt service on existing general obligation bonds issued by TxDOT. None of the funding can be used for toll roads.
As before, the passage of Proposition 7 gives TxDOT the opportunity to address the state’s most pressing transportation needs. And as we’ve done in the past, we’ll be looking to our local areas to help us determine a list of potential projects. And while it’s still a little early to determine what those projects will be, they cannot and will not be determined without local input.
Texas Transportation Chairman Tryon Lewis of Odessa spoke to AGC of Texas leaders at Chapter offices about TxDOT plans in the coming months. The retired state district judge and former Texas legislator said he appreciated the challenges and difficult decisions facing highway contractors in recent years “to keep crews working, to keep capital investment up with no certainties at all.”
Voter-approved Prop 1 in 2014 and Prop 7 in 2015 will provide more predictable highway funding. The new chairman told AGC of Texas members that TxDOT will become less centralized.
“You will see the decision-making will be made more towards the point at which construction is getting done,” Chairman Lewis told members, offering right-of-way issues and road material procurement as examples.
Giving district enginneers more decision-making power will accelerate the process and “make your lives easier. You will be able to move when you are ready to move,” he said. AGC members applauded.
Projects are, after all, born from the local level up. As we’ve always done, we’ll be working closely with local partners and communities to determine their priorities for Proposition 7 funding. House Bill 20, which also passed in the last legislative session, is an additional tool to work with the state’s transportation planning organizations to improve our project planning process, particularly as it relates to funding and allocation. That input, along with some improvements we’re making on project evaluation and project scoring, will help us select the best projects for Texas. The goal, as it’s always been, is to develop and deliver projects that Texans want and need. It’s what Texans are expecting, and we will not let them down.
Bill Hale is Chief Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.