County judges: property taxes aren’t enough to fund $61B in region’s estimated road needs

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Transportation Advocacy Group-Houston Region has identified a minimum of $61 billion in transportation projects needed across the Greater Houston area, which a panel of county judges at TAG’s Jan. 22 annual meeting said cannot be funded solely through their counties’ local property tax revenues.

The panel of judges from Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Galveston and Waller counties attended the “Our Region in Motion” meeting to discuss transportation needs and challenges posed by funding projects with limited revenue sources.

Funding needs TAG-Houston has identified include $30.6 billion for high-capacity transit like Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County projects, $18 billion in highway improvement projects that do not currently have funding, $6.7 billion in projects that are funded, $1.67 billion in toll road projects and $1.17 billion in freight projects. The remainder of the region’s needs include a city of Houston bike plan and the rebuilding of streets, bridges and drainage throughout Houston, according to material presented at the meeting.

TAG-Houston identified several areas of need in the Spring and Klein area, including improvements to Hwy. 249 and I-45, as well as the need for expanded METRO services along those corridors.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said the county spends the bulk of its tax revenue on the county jail, health care and flood control, and it has little left for road projects.

“We don’t get to choose our customers,” Emmett said of the 60 percent of the county budget used to fund the county jail.

An additional quarter is allocated to indigent health care through the hospital district, he said.

In addition to highways, toll roads and high-capacity transit like METRO, the TAG-Houston plan identifies $1.17 billion in freight projects that would improve mobility in the region.

The projects identified are in the southern and southeastern regions of the Greater Houston area, including
$15 million to expand Bayport Boulevard to Hwy. 146 near Baytown.

Although no projects near Spring and Klein were identified, a BNSF Railway runs along Hwy. 249, and Union Pacific Railroad is parallel to I-45 and Hardy Toll Road.

“We’ve got to think about freight as more than just trucks,” Emmett said. “We need to move more freight onto railroads. They have ability to adjust quickly; private industry can react. If more freight needs to go on rail, let’s do it.”

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Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of the paper in March 2017.
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