"A lot of people don't see the effects of this funding problem because we see construction all the time, but what most people don't know is that all of that is funded by debt financing—by bonds," said Jeff Collins, executive vice president of LJA Engineering Inc. and member of Texas Future, a nonprofit advocacy group for better infrastructure. "We have to pay that off."
During the past decade, the Texas Department of Transportation has borrowed billions through various bonds and propositions to help pay for much needed highway and road improvements.
"The state has maxed out its transportation credit card and is looking at rainy day money to get us over the hump," Collins said. "That really doesn't solve the problem we have. [Motorists] may have to pay something now for our future."
Although there are more people driving cars each day, vehicles typically have better gas mileage, allowing the state to collect less money from the fuel tax—which has remained flat since the early 1990s despite inflation.
Several bills naming possible transportation funding sources have been filed in Austin that would phase in an increase on vehicle sales tax, gas tax and registration fees. Gov. Rick Perry and several legislators have been proponents for the diversion of Department of Public Safety money to future and current transportation projects.
Rep. Patricia Harless, R–Houston, and Sen. Robert Nichols, R–Jacksonville, have submitted several resolutions and bills to assist with transportation funding. Nichols' SB 1110, which is scheduled to take effect September 1, would utilize property tax revenues for maintenance projects, allowing governing bodies to designate specified areas as "transportation reinvestment zones."