The House Committee on Transportation, under the direction of Chairman Pickett, and the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, under the direction of Chair Gonzalez Toureilles, met on April 28th.  Commissioner Fred Underwood of the Texas Transportation Commission testified about the “extensive” secondary road network for rural Texas and agriculture, which is the “backbone of a healthy economy.  He said aging highways are “consuming limited financial resources.” Due to declining gas tax revenue, increasing fuel efficiency, and construction inflation of 65% (from 2002-08), there is not enough money to maintain the existing system. Truck traffic is increasing in rural Texas because the railroad industry is abandoning rural Texas and removing the rails. Chairman Pickett said some farm-to-market roads are becoming “congested arterials” and current maintenance of farm-to-market roads is inadequate. Commissioner Underwood argued farm-to-market roads were not designed to endure today’s heavy truck traffic.


Amadeo Saenz, Executive Director of TxDOT, stated there are not enough resources for maintenance of roads, but the agency is developing best practices to stretch its dollars. He told the members 86% of rural roads are rated “good.” Rural traffic fatalities have been dropping in recent years due to safety improvements and TxDOT is developing a comprehensive rail plan.


Jim Allison, General Counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners’ Association of Texas, said the county road system receives $7.3 million annually from the state gas tax and this amount has remained unchanged since 1951. County property taxes primarily fund county roads and are an insufficient source of funding. Allison said additional state funding is necessary for county roads suggesting an end to Fund 6 diversions, indexing of fuel taxes, raising fuel taxes by 10 cents, and allowing local option elections for county transportation needs.