An adequate transportation system is absolutely essential to the movement of people, goods and services and the preservation of economic opportunity in Texas. It is TAB’s position that all transportation policy decisions must be focused on increasing the efficient and cost-effective movement of commerce between our neighboring states and countries. We must identify the transportation system that Texas needs and then determine all reasonable means to pay for it.
All modes of transportation that support our economy and jobs deserve support, as well as maintenance and modernization of our existing infrastructure. All methods of finance, including toll roads, alternative methods of funding and state revenues will be essential to providing all levels of government – state, regional and local – the tools to plan, design and implement transportation projects that serve the needs of this state.
TAB supports the fair and equitable allocation of funds by TxDOT to local and regional transportation projects and appropriate, uniform regulation of innovative transportation services that meet the needs of commuters. TAB’s priorities for transportation for the 85th Legislature are:
Improved Transportation Systems. Support improved highways, ports of entry and other infrastructure that facilitates trade, increases the effective flow of goods and services, promotes tourism and increases public safety wherever these improvements can improve economic opportunity and state productivity.
Toll Roads. Support the authorization and construction of toll roads. New capacity toll roads will provide motorists with choices in safe, reliable travel. User fees will support development, operations, financing and long-term maintenance of facilities that otherwise may not be feasible with traditional state and local resources. Any new toll roads must have local support and not reduce any existing non-tolled transportation options and infrastructure currently available to users in the applicable area.
TAB supports public-private partnerships that bring innovative methods to design, build, finance, maintain or operate an enhanced transportation system in order to meet the growing needs of Texas, while protecting taxpayer interests and property rights. Such partnerships should ensure that they do not preclude public ownership or operation of toll roads where they are supported locally and can be shown to be economically viable.
Toll Road Operation and Administration. TAB supports efforts to establish uniform and fair operating and administrative procedures for toll roads and toll road authorities that:
- • Maximize the seamless and transparent assessment and collection of appropriate tolls across multiple toll authorities;
- • Encourage the payment of appropriate toll charges without excessive penalties and effective and efficient resolution of toll payment disputes; and
- • Encourage uniform policies for safe and effective toll road operation, including those related to accident response, vehicle disablement or other appropriate vehicle operator requirements.
Waterway, Port and Ship Channel Improvements. Support any opportunities available to the Legislature or state agencies to facilitate ongoing efforts to improve the maintenance and modernization of commercial waterways and ports. Support local communities seeking funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) or other sources, and support state agency review and coordination of federal or state permits or authorizations. Further, support the continued priority of use of the State Highway Fund (Fund 6) for marine transportation needs.
Bonds. Despite the appropriate concern over both state and local government debt, TAB supports the issuance of bonds as funding mechanisms for highway and related construction where the long-term financing of infrastructure makes financial sense, generates positive economic returns and provides adequate revenues to retire the obligations. We support the early retirement of transportation debt where financial analysis clearly shows that such options provide the best return on investment of transportation funds and adequate funds for long-term maintenance and operation are available.
Local Participation. Support the continued use of local pass-through financing and other alternatives that enhance the ability of local communities to participate in the transportation planning, development process and funding options that address local and state connectivity needs.
New Revenue Sources. The 84th Legislature made valuable progress in improving transportation funding in Texas without authorizing any new fees or taxes. With these efforts, however, we can only hope to maintain current levels of traffic congestion. In order to meaningfully reduce congestion and meet the needs of our growing population, new and sustainable sources of revenue are inevitably required. TAB will oppose any efforts to reduce the availability of recent revenue gains in attempts to fund other budget priorities.
Public-Private Partnerships. Support the continued use of public-private partnerships and Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs), and enhance mechanisms that allow project sponsors to access private capital to supplement state or local funds to build infrastructure. We also support efforts to remove statutory or legislative restrictions or limitations on the number or nature of local comprehensive development projects where there is local support for such projects that address local or regional transportation needs.
Vehicle Registration Fees. The successful efforts of the 84th Legislature to end fuel tax diversions and allocate sales taxes will go a long way in alleviating the significant funding shortfalls for transportation. However, these efforts will still not completely address the problem. TAB will continue to support additional alternatives, including an increase in vehicle registration fees, dedicated to transportation infrastructure, that will complement other sources of funding to ensure that Texas has a transportation system capable of maintaining and contributing to the continued growth of our state’s economy.
Outsourcing State Work. Support opening government monopolies to competition by comparing the cost of projects. If a business in the private sector can do the job better and at a lower cost than the state, then it should be outsourced. However, care should be taken to protect Texas businesses from competing with below-market priced materials and services from suppliers for whom subsidies provide an unfair pricing advantage over Texas suppliers.
State Engineering Work/Design-Build. Support outsourcing the state’s engineering work to the maximum extent feasible to reduce costs and save taxpayer money. Support the use of design-build procedures wherever they can be shown to reduce the total cost and/or time required to deliver transportation projects without negatively affecting the quality or performance of those projects.
Priority of Transportation Projects. As TxDOT implements the provisions of HB 20 (84th Legislature), the consideration of prioritizing projects must reflect the actions of project participants to contribute financing. Regardless of other priorities for allocation of state revenues, projects should get funding priority if local or regional sponsors are willing to put appropriate local revenues into the mix and move forward. Support efforts to ensure that the allocation of state funds to transportation projects be fair, equitable and made without regard to the investments that local governments and local taxpayers have chosen to fund to meet local or regional needs.
Sunset Review. Support a focused review of TxDOT functions and operations that builds on earlier reviews and recent legislative changes, and oppose any efforts to use the Sunset process or legislation as a vehicle for significant changes in policy direction unrelated to the mission of the Sunset Commission or other legislative initiatives more appropriately implemented through the regular deliberative legislative process.
Eminent Domain. Support efforts to improve the eminent domain process that protect both the interests and rights of property owners, improve the efficiency of the process for any party acquiring property through eminent domain, reduce the costs of infrastructure projects to taxpayers and ratepayers and ensure a balance of interests between both public utilities and landowners. Oppose any efforts to unfairly or arbitrarily deny access to the eminent domain process to any class or type of utility or public infrastructure provider, whether public or private.
Mobile Source Emissions – Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP).
- • Support efforts to continue TERP funding beyond the current sunset date and oppose efforts to repeal the provisions for transfer of revenues from the State Highway Fund (Fund 6) to TERP from vehicle title transfer fees. Support efforts to amend the funds transfer authority between the Mobility Fund, Fund 6 and TERP that preserves the original intent that vehicle title fees be used for mobile source air quality programs without jeopardizing the underwriting of Mobility Fund bonds.
- • Support the appropriation of available TERP revenues and account balances in whatever amounts are necessary to ensure appropriate progress toward compliance with federal ozone air quality standards, including new uses of the fund that can be shown to reduce emissions of ozone precursors cost effectively.
- • Oppose any proposed additional uses of TERP funds that do not reduce emissions of ozone precursors and which are not competitive with other potential uses in terms of the costs of emissions reductions on a unit basis.
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Consistent with TAB’s support of the successful efforts to adopt uniform, statewide requirements for liability insurance for TNC drivers in the 84th Legislature, we support comprehensive statewide regulation of TNCs that is uniform, supports consumer choice and personal responsibility, creates incentives for technical innovation, enhances job growth and public safety and eliminates unnecessary local government regulation.
Vehicle Safety Inspections. TAB supports the repeal of the requirement for periodic safety inspections of non-commercial vehicles if:
- • Valid data and analysis clearly demonstrate that repeal of the inspection requirement will in no way increase the risks of traffic accidents or public safety; and
- • The funds derived from the safety inspections that are dedicated to air quality compliance programs are maintained and available to be appropriated for their intended purposes.