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Legislative Action Lessens Need for Tolls

Transportation is one of the most important issues facing this state, impacting both our economy and our quality of life on a daily basis. That’s why we’ve made improving transportation one of our highest priorities in the Texas House over the last several years.

In light of those efforts, I am hopeful that local and state transportation officials will abandon plans to use toll bonds for two important projects in the San Antonio area.

 

Several of us who represent Bexar County in the Legislature, including Representative Lyle Larson, have been working with state and local officials to explore ways to add capacity to U.S. Highway 281 and Interstate 10 without the use of tolled lanes. In recent months, I have hosted several meetings with legislators and other Bexar County leaders to discuss this issue.

This discussion is happening because we’ve made a number of important efforts to prioritize transportation. In the legislative session that ended June 1, for example, the House insisted that, for the first time in decades, we use the State Highway Fund entirely for transportation instead of diverting more than $1 billion of that money to other programs every two years.

In the 2013 session, the Legislature proposed using some of the oil-and-gas revenue coming into our state Rainy Day Fund for transportation. Voters later gave that proposal overwhelming approval. And voters will have another opportunity to steer dollars toward roads this fall, when they will consider a plan to dedicate a certain amount of state sales tax revenue to roads.

Taken together, these proposals could add $5 billion annually for transportation around the state in a few years. Let’s be clear: That’s not nearly enough to solve all of our transportation challenges or to rid this growing state of either toll roads or congestion. But we can and should shift more toward a pay-as-you-go approach, instead of tolls, when it makes sense. And many of us believe that approach indeed makes sense for the expansions of U.S. 281 and I-10.

I will continue working with state and local officials to see that we address our transportation needs in a way that works for our economy and for taxpayers. And as that work continues, I want to hear from you. Please email me at joe@joestraus.org to discuss this or any issue, and I will keep you informed as new developments arise.