In late August, the Texas Transportation Commission approved a $70 billion Unified Transportation Program, or UTP.
The UTP is TxDOT’s 10-year transportation planning document. It includes highway projects as well as rail, freight, aviation, public transportation and state and coastal waterway programs.
The 2017 UTP includes an anticipated 38 billion dollar funding boost over the next 10 years. Up from $32 billion, this provides an average of $7 billion per year. We can thank the federal transportation bill, the FAST Act, the legislature’s ending of diversions from the State Highway Fund and voter-approved Propositions 1 and 7. This game-changing funding infusion translates into more projects that will enhance the safety, quality and capacity of our transportation system. Bottom line, the additional funding will help us distribute more funding to much needed projects.
Through the UTP, we will address our strategic priorities --- improving safety, maintaining our existing transportation system, targeting congestion and urban mobility needs and enhancing our rural connectivity corridors.
The 2017 UTP dedicates $3.2 billion to safety initiatives over the 10 years. TxDOT districts could receive nearly $14 billion to maintain and improve pavement conditions. $3.5 billion is dedicated to funding bridge rehabilitation and replacement projects, and a total of $1.8 billion will help districts address local priorities.
Over the next 10 years, a total of $28.9 billion will go toward congestion and urban mobility. This amount includes funding for the Texas Clear Lanes initiative. $6.6 billion is allocated to address the state’s rural connectivity corridors, many of which are on the Texas Trunk System and have been impacted by the heavy truck traffic from energy sector exploration and development.
Finally, $5 billion will go to strategic priority projects selected by the Transportation Commission.
As the 2017 UTP was developed, care was given to ensure it aligned with directives laid out in HB 20. This law increases the department’s accountability, objectivity and transparency. It requires that projects in the UTP meet certain criteria. It also allows us to consider some fundamental questions about each project before it’s selected, like --- how well does the project align with our strategic goals? What funds are available and how ready is the project to move forward? It requires the department to work with its planning partners ---- metropolitan planning organizations --- to develop a comprehensive performance-based planning process that includes project selection criteria.
Previous UTPs have been based on very conservative funding forecasts. That’s made it difficult for us and our planning organizations to effectively develop projects. With this UTP, we’ve built in more flexibility so that we can respond to changes in funding. With more of our funding coming from less traditional sources – like oil and gas severance taxes and vehicle sales taxes – we are now able to make adjustments.
With the passage of Propositions 1 and 7 came a greater level of expectation from the people we serve every day. TxDOT’s job has been, and always will be, to build projects that make transportation safer, faster and easier for the citizens of Texas. With the additional funding provided for in the 2017 UTP – and the new processes the department has put in place – we are certain we can deliver on those expectations.