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Bumpy roads

This story is mostly about how Houston ranks against other cities in road conditions. Of interest to me is the reasons why we’re not likely to get any better:

At the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the transportation planning body for Harris and seven surrounding counties, roughly $50 billion has been trimmed from a $157 billion, 25-year regional transportation plan. Those funds would have been used for new construction and a variety of improvements and repairs.

The cuts come as the metro area’s population is expected to grow to 8 million by 2035.

At Houston’s Public Works Department, where about 350 workers care for nearly 6,000 miles of streets, the asphalt street repaving effort this year has been cut by almost a fifth. Repairs to concrete streets also are being reduced, said spokesman Alvin Wright.

Patricia Waskowiak, an HGAC transportation planning manager, reported highway and road departments are getting hammered . Short term, she said, agencies face the economic downturn. Long term, the increase in high-mileage vehicles on the roads will lead to drops in the state’s motor-fuels tax — a prime source of revenue for TxDOT.

Further, federal aid for local roads is uncertain. Since its insolvency in 2009, the federal highway trust fund has been bolstered by infusions of general funds money. “What the future holds in the short term is very uncertain,” Waskowiak said.

While traffic gurus count their nickels and dimes, 18-wheelers, endemic to Houston’s highways, keep pounding the pavement.

As has been the case so often recently, the theme is that we get what we pay for. We could afford better roads if we wanted to, but in an environment where rich people whine about a $5 monthly fee that’s dedicated to road and drainage improvements, there’s not much of a push for that. Maybe someday that will change.

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