TX plans $9B funding infusion for state highway projects
- The Texas Transportation Commission has approved a plan to tackle a laundry list of 230 state highway projects totaling $8.9 billion, according to the Houston Chronicle.
- Included in the agency's plans is a $3 billion revamp of a Houston segment of Interstate 45 along with adjacent highways, marking the single largest project of the initiative. Construction is expected to start on that segment in 2020.
- Commission officials cautioned that funding for the program could be threatened by the state budget process as well as from the uncertainty around federal funding.
Another component of funding for Texas highway projects is federal money, just like in other states. Right now, that is a muddy issue given how the 2018 budget proposal from the Trump administration hacked away at long-standing infrastructure grant programs, such as TIGER grants and the Federal Transit Administration's capital investment program. There is also uncertainty around how and when the president will introduce an infrastructure bill and what exactly it will contain.
Some news outlets reported that President Donald Trump would table infrastructure legislation until next year — or even the year after — in order to first tackle other agenda items like healthcare, his Supreme Court nomination and tax reform. However, Trump's healthcare "repeal and replace" bill never made it to a vote. Soon after, officials said Trump was considering an infrastructure push in order to regather some steam after failing to enact healthcare reform.
Aside from what highway financing options will arise from an infrastructure bill, there's still the Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for state highway projects via an 18.4-cent gas tax. The tax hasn't seen an increase in nearly 25 years, so Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, R-OR, has introduced a bill that would increase the tax by 1 cent a year, delivering an estimated $17 billion annually to the HTF.
The current level of available HTF money hasn't been able to keep up with the necessary road and highway projects. According to an American Society of Civil Engineers report earlier this month, it would take $4.6 trillion by 2025 to perform the necessary U.S. infrastructure improvements, an increase of $1 trillion since the ASCE last calculated that need in 2013. At the time of that report, the ASCE said lawmakers had only come up with $1.88 trillion and that the gap would cost millions of American jobs and trillions in gross domestic product.
- Houston Chronicle Texas boosts highway funding nearly $9 billion, including I-45 projects
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