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Elections

Poll: Texans Want More Transportation Spending Without Higher Taxes

Voters object to raising taxes or fees to fund congestion relief.

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There was lots of fanfare when transportation officials cut the ribbon for the new ramp connecting U.S. 290 to I-10. It’s designed to relieve congestion for some 250,000 drivers who pass through the interchange every day.

But those big projects are not cheap. The 290/I-10 project has a price tag of about $151 million. And when you factor in all the state’s transportation needs, officials put the cost at up to $5 billion anually.

Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Mosely says if the state doesn’t come up with a long-term, reliable source of funding, congestion will only get worse.

“We have 1,200 new Texans daily moving to our state, many of them bringing more than one vehicle. We’re enjoying a new shipping lane opening into Panama so our ports are going to have more demand for our mobility capacity,” Mosely said. 

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So how do you prepare for the future?

On November 4, voters will be asked to approve Proposition 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that would divert a portion of oil and gas tax revenues from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and put it toward transportation.

Officials say Prop 1 would generate about $1.7 billion in its first year.

According to the Houston Public Media/KHOU Election Poll, close to 55-percent of Texans say the legislature needs to spend more on roads. But there’s disagreement on where to get the money.

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein conducted the poll. He says for one, most respondents don’t want to raise the $.20 cent per gallon gas tax.

Respondents also oppose raising motor vehicle registration fees. Stein said that raising money for a long-term solution could be a tough sell for lawmakers.

“I think they look for these windfalls in the rainy day fund and they try to basically sidestep raising taxes but basically spending money that doesn’t look like a tax,” the professor said. “If it doesn’t look and walk like a tax you can get away with it.”

But something has to be done soon, according to Jack Drake with Houston’s Transportation Advocacy Group. Drake is afraid the state’s robust economy will stagnate if the state does not invest more in its transportation infrastructure.

“Getting home earlier cost money. Spending less time on the freeways cost money,” Drake said. “Safer roadways cost money. We should not be afraid to ask ourselves to pay for what we need.”

Proposition 1 is expected to pass.