DOT Boss Talks Transportation

The nation’s transportation secretary comes to town to talk about…what else? Mary Peters addressed the Texas Lyceum Public Conference. She said high fuel prices this past summer changed the country’s driving habits and depleted the highway trust fund. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Transportation Secretary Peters delivered the keynote at the Conference of the Texas Lyceum. It serves to attract opinions and expertise on national and state issues. A survey resulted in the topic of transportation.

Peters says three priorities that affect transportation are safety, maintaining and improving our nation’s interstate highway system, and urban congestion.

“We need to look for measured desired results that tell us how the transportation system is performing, not just how much is out there today.”

She says we need to make it a priority to wean ourselves off the gas tax.

“The gas tax, which served us well in building our nation’s interstate system, is simply not serving us well today.”

Peters says motorist’s driving habits had an adverse affect.

“Because of the high fuel prices last summer and into the early fall, Americans driving literally billions fewer miles, we’re seeing significantly less money come into the highway trust fund.”

And less money forced the DOT to go to Congress to bail out the highway trust fund in order to pay some bills.

“We need to encourage more private sector investment. We need to encourage more innovative funds coming in to support transportation, and not just continuing to depend on that gas tax, and look to how we could fund transportation in the future.”

She says Texas has been a leader when it comes to attracting private sector investment.

“We have to determine what projects are really gonna help us in terms of our long term economic well being in the United States today.”

Attending the conference for the first time was Robin Holzer with the Citizens Transportation Coalition.

“I know there’s a commitment to take the good ideas that come out of today and put them in front of the legislature.  And it sounds from talking to members of the legislature like there’s commitment to make some changes to how we do transportation in the state in the coming session. So, I’m optimistic that some good will come out of all this.”

The conference proceedings are published in a journal that will make its way to legislators and policy makers across the state.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.