The Transportation Advocacy Group-Houston Region, which advocates for funding the area’s transportation needs, has outlined its priorities for the 85th legislative session, TAG Executive Director Andrea French said.
The group will visit Austin on Feb. 23 to meet with legislators and promote Houston’s mobility needs.
TAG will focus on protecting current transportation funding, preventing the diversion of transportation funds to other projects and exploring new funding sources to meet the region’s need of $5 billion annually, French said.
French said the passage of propositions 1 and 7 were a positive step in providing additional funds for roads and bridges, but other sources of funding and types of transportation must be considered to keep the region mobile.
Proposition 1, approved by voters in 2014, directs a portion of oil and gas tax collections to the State Highway Fund, whichTxDOT uses to pay for existing and new roadways. Proposition 7, approved in 2015, directs a portion of the state’s general sales tax, motor vehicle sales tax and vehicle rental tax revenue to the SHF.
“There was a focus on transportation in the last two [legislative]sessions that resulted in propositions 1 and 7 but TAG likes to remind folks that those propositions were just for roads and bridges, and even with an economy that is thriving, both of those propositions didn’t get us where we need to be,” French said.
French said TAG also supports the bullet train proposed by developers Texas Central Partners, which would provide high-speed rail service between Houston and Dallas.
Protecting current transportation funds while exploring new avenues will be a focus of the group in the next year, she said.
“We won’t support one form of financing over another,” French said. “We believe we should have all of the tools in the toolbox with a lot of creative financing options, [including]partnerships and tolling.”
Increased vehicle registration fees, creation of a funding stream for ports and rail, and increasing the motor fuels tax are methods TAG has identified that could help the state meet its transportation funding needs.
Among the priorities TAG has listed on its website for the current legislative session are:
- Encouraging the Texas Deprtment of Transportation to develop multimodal corridor planning
- Opposing revenue and appraisal caps on cities and counties, which affect their ability to fund road improvements
- Identifying future transportation funding gaps
- Investigating alternative funding mechanisms such as tolling and public-private partnerships
- Investigating vehicle miles traveled, or distance-based fees, which could replace motor fuels taxes
- Continuing eminent domain authority for planning new transportation corridors
- Supporting Texas Clear Lanes, an initiative directed at congested urban highways