Elections

Will Prop 1 Money Help Ease Houston’s Freeway Congestion?

Constitutional amendment allows the diversion of oil and gas revenues to transportation.


Animation answering the question: So what is Proposition 1, and how would it work?

Now that Texas voters have passed a measure that will help fund some of the state’s transportation needs, drivers are waiting to see if Prop 1 will actually ease congestion on Houston’s crowded freeways.

That new constitutional amendment will allow the state to divert oil and gas revenues from the state rainy fund and put it toward transportation. The measure is expected to free up an additional $1.7 billion for projects around the state, but officials say the real needs are  closer to $5 billion.

Brandon Janes with the group Transportation Advocates for Texas says despite that new money, commuters probably won’t see a dramatic difference.

“I don’t believe that anyone can say that the passage of Prop 1 will maintain our present congestion levels. I think our congestion levels will continue to get worse as the state grows.”

According to some estimates, Texas could have about ten million new residents by 2030. But a phrase that’s mentioned often by transportation planners is that “you can’t build your way out of congestion.”

That’s echoed by David Crossley with the urban planning think tank  Houston Tomorrow. He says Prop 1 money can only be used for roads, and not for public transit in the state’s big cities.

“I’m not sure I can see how it’s going to be very helpful inside the place where the people already live.”

Transportation Planner Alan Clark with the Houston-Galveston Area Council says he expects the Houston region will get about $100 million of Prop 1 money over the next four years. As for specific projects, Clark says that’s still in discussion. He thinks some of the money will help pay for work that’s already underway, to offset rising costs.

“There are still some additional funding needs on projects like U.S. 290 or interchange work on important projects like the Beltway and 288.”

And as the need grows and those costs continue to climb, lawmakers are now looking for long-term sources of transportation funding. And considering that TxDOT has run up billions of dollars in debt in recent years, State Representative Carol Alvarado of Houston says something has to be done soon.

“We can’t go out and borrow any more money for transportation so I think we were given a pretty hefty mandate.”

Texas lawmakers will be taking up those issues when they go back into session in January.

 

 

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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