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Consistent. Principled. Action.
Saturday, October 18th, 2014
Hugely important discussion on Monday
Thank you for your prayers, cards and emails following my Dad’s death; you have been overwhelmingly kind and thoughtful.
There is a hugely important discussion in Commissioners Court on Monday.
The immediate issue is how to allocate the $21 million in county discretionary bond funds in the 2007 bond program. These funds were reserved for county use; they don’t include any funds originally allocated to city projects.
But this discussion will carry far beyond this $21 million; it could go a long way to determining the future of transportation funding in Collin County if the federal and state governments do not adequately fund transportation. If that is the case, elected county and city officials are realizing that either our past practices may be disrupted or our highways may be tolled. This reminds me of the 1964 Bob Dylan song, The Times They Are a-Changin’.
There are only three basic ways that we will get the funds to build the major transportation infrastructure (“on-system” highways built and maintained by TXDot) in our fast-growth county as we grow toward 2 million in population. The funding will be either, 1) adequate federal and state government funding, 2) tolls on all major highways, or 3) the county steps into the vacuum by increasing its funding for major highway construction and maintenance. And frankly, if the first doesn’t happen, it may be a combination of the second and the third.
The discussion on Monday will be about allocating the county discretionary bond funds to more traditional projects rather than holding them to leverage state dollars for our major highways. Traditional projects match local county and city funds, all out of your pocket, but don’t leverage many state dollars. “On-system” projects leverage four state dollars for every local dollar per the most likely TXDot funding categories.
On Monday, I will show the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDot) numbers that the percentage of non-toll-related local dollars that the county and our cities spent on “on-system” roads (TXDot roads), was less than 10 percent since 2007. A normal match per TXDot funding categories is 20 percent. Whatever the decision on Monday on the $21 million, the future local match to state dollars will necessarily increase once our huge advance payment from the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) is exhausted. I will also show the impact of leveraging state dollars in the future.
I totally understand and sympathize with the letter that several mayors wrote this week (the letter wasn’t addressed to me), asking that the $21 million in county funds be allocated to our cities’ infrastructure. We all recognize that committing an abnormally large percentage of county tax dollars to “on-system” highways is not usual and may disrupt past practice of funding city projects. But if the federal and state governments don’t adequately fund our major highway construction and maintenance, county funds may be necessary, or we accept tolls. It’s that simple.
To recap recent events:
1) Many of our citizens have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not want our major highways to be tolled, especially US75. The Commissioners Court voted unanimously to oppose tolling the current HOV lane on US75. There is a well-organized local effort opposed to tolls and several state-wide candidates have come out against more toll roads.
2) The Regional Transportation Council (RTC) has indicated that they will again consider tolling the current HOV lane on US75 when the 2015 legislative session is completed.
3) Several mayors wrote asking that county discretionary bond funds go to city infrastructure. I expect to hear from some of our city leaders on Monday.
4) Frankly, many do not expect the federal and state governments to adequately fund transportation in 2015. That leaves us the choice between accepting tolls or committing more county tax dollars to the TXDot system.
The bottom line is that it behooves all of us to band together to encourage our state legislature to adequately fund the “on-system” transportation infrastructure in our fast growth county and for us to leverage every state dollar possible.
Otherwise it leaves us only tough choices.
P.S. Tune in at 1:30 PM, Monday, October 20, to watch the discussion. http://collin.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2
posted by Keith Self on October 18th, 2014 at 3:33 pm