TAG-Houston advocates for funding the area’s transportation needs, and it has identified a minimum of $61 billion in transportation needs across the Greater Houston area. Funding needs identified include $30.6 billion for high-capacity transit such as buses, $18 billion for highway projects that do not currently have funding, $6.7 billion for funded highway projects, $1.67 billion for toll road projects and $1.17 billion for freight projects. The remainder of the region’s need includes a city of Houston bike plan and rebuilding of streets, bridges and drainage throughout Houston, according to material TAG-Houston presented at the annual meeting.
Each of the judges responded to questions provided by moderators throughout the two-hour lunch meeting. Here are several key quotes from each judge during the event.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:
Emmett said county efforts to improve transportation infrastructure are stymied by a lack of revenue sources for the county.
“The reality is, until organizations like [TAG-Houston] and individuals like you start looking at elected officials, and tell them very bluntly that you’re not going to support them unless they do something about funding for transportation, it ain’t going to happen.”
Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta:
Sebesta said the region must speak with a unified voice because all of the Greater Houston area counties are connected.
"Transportation is important; it’s the backbone. if we can’t move goods, products and people around, we will choke on our own success; it’s as simple as that. We have to be able to move people not only within our individual counties but within the region.”
Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert:
Herbert remarked on the need to define regional needs in seeking funding for projects.
“There are a lot of things in transportation infrastructure that need to be looked into. We are very limited in what we can address on a county level. We’re going to have need for vastly improved infrastructure at different times. … If we properly identify regional interests within the region, and develop those projects where they need to be done jointly, it benefits everybody.”
Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal:
Doyal said toll roads are an important way for the region to improve mobility without relying on tax dollars. He said the idea meets with some resistance from residents.
“I’m struggling to understand the opposition to toll roads. Imagine what this region would be like today if the toll roads that were here did not exist. … There are 138,000 people within a 5-mile radius of Magnolia, Texas, and no way to get to Houston except for Hwy. 249. To me, [tolls are] a conservative way to construct roads. If you’re not traveling that road, you’re not paying for it.”
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry:
Henry said the discussion of new funding mechanisms is hampered by the politics at the state level.
“It’s not that we don’t have the ideas; it’s that there’s not enough money. I suspect we could take the entire budget from TxDOT for the state of Texas; spend it in our region; and that’s a good start; it doesn’t finish anything.”
Waller County Judge Trey Duhon:
Duhon discussed the need for members of the community and the government to address misinformation spread on social media, particularly when dealing with issues such as transportation, which are hot-button issues for residents and businesses.
“We need to do a better job communicating to the general public. Social media has changed the game in getting information to people. It doesn’t take much for one person to get on social media and try to cast a pall on something that is really good for your community. We have got to be … a part of that conversation, when we have challenges, it’s a shame when good people stand on the sidelines and don’t say anything. Technology is changing the game exponentially.”