Transportation

Report: Cities Have To Find Innovative Ways To Pay For Infrastructure Improvements

With state budgets stretched thin and less money from the federal government, cities are often having to come up with their own funds to pay for road improvements. That’s according to a new report from the National League of Cities, which looks at the tools being used to pay for that work.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx speaking before the American Public Transportation Association in Houston in 2014.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx speaking before the American Public Transportation Association in Houston in 2014.

Speaking in a conference call, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says those needs are only going to grow, and cities have to come up with more deliberate strategies to fund that work.

“Where we go, opportunity goes,” says Foxx. “Where we don’t go there’s no opportunity. That’s how important transportation is.”  

So how can cities in Texas raise money for infrastructure?

For one, Texas is one of 29 states that allows for a local option sales tax, like the one that’s collected in Harris County for Metro’s transit operations.

But the report goes on to show there are other funding tools that Texas doesn’t permit cities to use, like a local option fuel tax, or local vehicle registration fees.

Aside from taxes, Texas allows public-private partnerships for some road construction. There’s also a state infrastructure bank which provides loans for local projects.  

The report doesn’t take a stance on the best funding models. But Foxx says as time goes on, he thinks cities will have an even bigger voice in how local transportation projects unfold.

“Everyone needs to be engaged and to communicate and collaborate with each other, so that the infrastructure solutions that are developed in communities meet the needs of those communities,” adds Foxx.  

Seven cities are currently competing for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge Grant. Over $50 million will be awarded to one of those cities for developing innovative mobility solutions.

Austin is the only Texas city competing for that grant.  

National League of Cities Report

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Gail Delaughter

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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