Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Alternative funding to be considered for Ports-to-Plains Corridor

Private investment, partnerships to be studied
TxDOT - October 16, 2006

AUSTIN ─ With funding scarce for the long-sought Ports-to-Plains corridor, state transportation officials are looking at opportunities for private investment and partnerships to pay for moving freight and utilities along this trade corridor.

The Texas Department of Transportation will consider Ports-to-Plains funding alternatives in a study that should be completed early next year.

The research will look at how local governments and regional entities can partner with the private sector to finance needed infrastructure. The potential for utility transmission along the corridor will be assessed, as will the role of rail, and the multifaceted trade relationship among the nation’s Plains States.

Ports-to-Plains is a proposed divided highway corridor stretching from Laredo through West Texas to Denver, Colorado. Designated as a High Priority Corridor by Congress in 1998, Ports-to-Plains corridor is intended to expand economic opportunity and serve international trade from Mexico to Canada.

Despite the congressional designation, adequate federal funding has not been provided to cover the cost of the project.

Using Ports-to-Plains as a case study, TxDOT will research the best potential applications of the Trans-Texas Corridor concept for routes that may not attract tolling as a primary revenue source.
“The utilities industries have found a home in West Texas, and we want to study what potential opportunities are available for attracting private sector investment for utility transmission to other parts of the state,” said Mike Behrens, TxDOT executive director. “In turn, that investment can help pay for road improvements needed to make Ports-to-Plains a reality.”

Innovative transportation funding options are being implemented around Texas to help close an $86 billion funding gap between what the state can pay for and what needs to be done to meet mobility needs by 2030.

“Using all financial options is one of our strategies to meet our five goals,” said Behrens, “which are to reduce congestion, enhance safety, expand economic opportunity, improve air quality and increase the value of our transportation assets.”

“Ports to Plains is very excited to work with TxDOT to find new solutions to meet Texas growing transportation needs. The old way of doing business is not able to meet the transportation demands that keep our economy moving,” said Michael Reeves, president of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor Coalition. “TxDOT should be commended for seeking out creative solutions to the transportation funding crisis we are facing throughout the country. TxDOT has also realized that what works in metropolitan areas may not work in rural parts of the state.

“This effort should expedite the completion of the Ports to Plains Corridor, which will create new jobs and economic opportunity for West Texas,” said Reeves. “Ports to Plains will be a catalyst for economic development and job creation for West Texas.”

Other TxDOT strategies to close the funding gap are to empower local leaders to solve local transportation problems, increase competition to drive down costs and demand consumer-driven decisions.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is one of the proposals to meet the state’s transportation needs over the next 50 years and more.

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