Wednesday, June 20, 2007

State Works to Accelerate Transportation Projects

TxDOT - June 14, 2007

AUSTIN - Moving quickly to implement recent transportation legislation, state transportation officials today initiated a new process to work with local officials – including local toll road authorities – to accelerate projects to reduce congestion and improve safety.

“The Legislature has given us clear direction to solve transportation problems by working with local officials,” said Ric Williamson, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission. “That is exactly what we are doing.”

At a special meeting in Austin, the commission authorized the Texas Department of Transportation to work with local toll entities such as regional tollway authorities, regional mobility authorities and counties to begin moving forward on 87 projects that are currently years away from being fully funded. (View Commission Minute Order and list of projects.)

“These are projects that local officials have said are needed to reduce congestion but are waiting in line for funding. We want to help our local partners build the projects as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Williamson said. (View map of candidate toll projects.)

To accelerate improvements, the projects are being proposed by TxDOT for development, construction and operation as toll projects.

New legislation signed this week by Governor Perry, Senate Bill 792, gives local toll entities the first option to develop, construct and operate toll projects in their jurisdiction.

Before initiating a toll project on the state highway system, SB 792 requires the local toll authority and TxDOT to agree on terms and conditions for the project, including the initial toll rate and the methodology for changing the rate. The law also requires a market valuation of the project be developed to determine what the project is worth.

“It’s important to understand that in the absence of substantial new revenue, we will soon have no choice other than to shift tax resources from congestion relief to maintenance of the system, especially in major metropolitan areas and along the state’s busiest corridors,” said Williamson. “Evaluating the tolling potential of these projects will help us better understand the choices we all face.”

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