By Jim Allison
Texans are known for their colorful and succinct language. If someone said, “I saw Bud start down the hill in his old pickup. When he hit the slick spot, he commenced to going sideways and swapping ends all the way down into Mrs. Brown’s flower beds,” we would have an accurate description of Bud’s mishap. Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature usually waits until things are “going sideways and swapping ends” before addressing a problem. Most major issues are in a state of crisis or mired in litigation before any legislative solutions are forthcoming, with examples including prison overcrowding, education reform, and mental health funding.
However, some credit is due in the area of transportation. While the need is critical in oil and gas counties, the appropriation of $225 million for county road repair and improvement was a significant first step. Likewise, the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2014 will allocate needed support for public roadways.
While scrambling to meet Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) deadlines for the county road grants, let’s not overlook the opportunity to plan for future needs. With the assistance of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), the grant project list can provide a roadmap for future transportation needs beyond the grant funding. With these needs identified, counties can evaluate the future use of County Energy Transportation Reinvestment Zone (CETRZ) funding and seek additional state support for these projects. Let’s not wait until we are “going sideways and swapping ends.” Let’s use the TxDOT infrastructure grant process as the beginning of the development of a comprehensive transportation plan for all counties.
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