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New coalition launched in Central Texas as road funding crumbles under COVID-19

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 12:19 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Prices at the pump may be low right now, but it could have lasting effects on the state’s roads, economy and jobs in the long-term, experts say.

"Our tax revenues are simply not keeping pace with the needs and growth that we have," said Aaron Cox, Vice President of the Texas Association of Business.

in response to an anticipated dive in state transportation funding due to the COVID-19 recession and wilting oil prices leaving dramatically lower tax revenues, on Wednesday, the Texas Association of Business launched a new coalition called Keep Texas Moving in the Waco, Temple, Bryan and College Station areas.

"The pandemic is hitting tax revenues hard, including motor vehicle sales and oil and gas severance taxes," said Cox. "We've seen the effects of COVID and depressed energy prices, we're really--for lack of a better word--being hammered at the state and local level in terms of transportation funding sources."

Despite recent voter-approved propositions (1 &7), Cox says the need for improving and expanding roadways was outstripping available funding even before COVID-19 hit.

"Texas is still expected to grow by 12,000,000 people in the next twenty years to more than 40,000,000 by 2040," said Cox. "Our economy is expected to double by 2050."

The Texas Comptroller's office announced last week, it's projecting an estimated $5 billion budget shortfall, including a drop by almost half in oil and gas severance taxes flowing from the state's Economic Stabilization Fund into TxDOT's State Highway Fund, when state lawmakers return in January.

"The bottom line is, it's all about commerce," said State House Representative Hugh Shine, R-Temple. "We have over 200,000 lane miles of highway over 50,000 bridges, we have the largest highway system in the United States."

According to the TAB, a coalition of American transportation experts recently estimated that transportation revenue would decline nationwide by 30 percent, on average, over the next 18 months.

Hoping to find new funding sources, KTM, which is comprised of political leaders, small and large businesses, local chambers of commerce, truckers and commuters, is advocating for solutions to improve the most gridlocked Texas roadways while putting people to work.

"Our approach will create jobs, it will create jobs in the local economy and those jobs will have a spillover effect as well," said Cox.

Falling in-line with the solutions supported by the non-profit, Shine believes public-private partnerships are the answer to help fund and improve the transportation infrastructure in Central Texas.

“We’ve got growth induced traffic gridlock and it’s getting worse every year, so I believe it’s time for us to look at a private investment in our growth and bridges,” said Shine. “I think it’s critical up here in Central Texas as a hub.”

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