The annual Our Region in Motion of the Transportation Advocacy Group-Houston Region was held at the Houstonian Hotel on North Post Oak Lane in Houston.
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 by the group include $42 billion for high-capacity transit corridors, $19.5 billion for highway projects that do not currently have funding and $1.3 billion for freight projects.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said advance planning is key to managing transportation in the region.
"When we build transportation it’s not something for the next 10 years; it’s for the next 40 years,” Hidalgo said. “Transportation is literally planning for the next generation, and we need investment from all levels to match that kind of importance.”
Hidaldo said one of the main reasons she has heard that people leave the region is due to transportation costs.
She also said at the luncheon that she has heard local industry leaders say creating “livable” communities is important to attract the most promising young employees.
“They are used to living in a community where they can walk,” she said.
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said state involvement is needed to fund projects.
“The state is operating under the assumption that we’re automatically going into this brave new world, and I can tell you there are a lot of people who are not going to go into it easily. We are a car town and a car state.”
Keough also said it is important for the region to use the money it does get from the state to show it is able to distribute the resources it receives in a timely and efficient manner.
Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said local control will be important for his county.
“Local control is the only way you’re going to have successful transportation projects,” Trey Duhon said.
Duhon said although his county lacks high revenue, a large portion of it is devoted to transportation. Waller County has a countywide mobility program but could need to look to a road bond, he said.
"Is there a road bond in our future? Absolutely. But you need a plan for that money," Duhon said.
For Montgomery County, Keough said a road bond is in the future, though he could not speculate on a timeline.
“Nothing off the table, this is so crucial for our county. ... We are growing so fast.”
Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebasta said growth has been a key issue for all counties, but each one has unique issues and challenges.
“We have a great working relationship with TxDOT,” Sebasta said. “We’re going to rework our little mass transit system that we have ... [but] our problems our issues are a little different than other counties.”
Fort Bend County Judge KP George said with the Greater Houston area's population increasing annually the issue of mobility will continue to remain central to the region's concerns.
“Quality mobility means quality of life,” George said. “We need to address this and ... we are close to getting 25% of the state population in this region.”