Texas’s budget is in and legislatures agree that freeways are the future of Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation’s Unified Transportation Plan updated their annual plan. Here, they released their planned budget spending for the next ten years. $85 billion in total will push projects all across Texas. However, many worry where Texas’ priorities lie. After reviewing the plan, they see that much of it is to update and improve Texas roads. However, the Unified Transportation Plan does more than just Texas roads. They are in charge of directing federal and state funding. They direct to things like bridges, mass transit, airports, ferries, bike and pedestrian pathways, as well as highways. If this plan goes through, that leaves funds tied up for the next decade. This would leave many potential projects on the wayside.
The biggest red flag about this proposal is that of the $85 billion, not one penny goes to the mass transit system. City manager, Erik Walsh, says that’s because 97% of Texans drive a car or truck. However, many think that without proper mass transit systems in place, citizens are basically required to own a vehicle. Jay Crossley, Director of Farm & City, a think tank in Austin, spearheads the group of people who think Texas isn’t thinking toward the future.
Some think Texas Roads are the Least of their Worries
Crossley claims that Texas authorities are stuck in “1950’s thinking”. They are essentially creating mandatory wasteful spending and tying the hands of anyone who wants to fix things in the future. Instead of highway updates, he wants to see more money allocated towards safety and alternative transportation methods. This is in sync with what many Texans also claim they want. Over a third of Texans state that they want more pedestrian-friendly avenues of transport.
With the current plan, only $800 million of the $85 billion finances safety resources over the next ten years. $80.1 billion goes to serve dedicated highway projects. This huge disproportion of funding makes it nearly impossible to do any major project in the next 10 years. Additionally, Crossley and his firm wish to see fewer highway expansions. Also, they want fewer rural roads converted into auto-dependent corridors that support suburban development. With a focus on growing cities and urban development, Texas will thrive in the future.However, legislatures are firm that this is not the vision they see for Texas.
There is still opportunities for local citizens to reach out to the Unified Transportation Plan to voice their concerns. If they do nothing, the highway expansions will continue as planned. Multiple research teams already stated that expanding highways do not prevent traffic jams and safety is only mitigated by an inconsequential size.