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We got those bad road blues

So many bad roads, so little funding to maintain them.

Issues including traffic congestion, damage to vehicles from roads needing repair and costs incurred in accidents caused by insufficient safety features on roadways cost drivers in Texas $23 billion annually, according to a study released Tuesday by a national transportation research group.

“Texas has fallen behind in relieving traffic congestion on its major roadways and maintaining pavement conditions on these roads,” said Frank Moretti, director of Policy and Research at TRIP, the group that conducted the study.

The study suggests the condition of Texas roads could be costing individual motorists as much as $2,000 a year.

It also says the condition of Texas roads will worsen without increased funding, a difficult prospect given the state’s budget challenges.

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Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads, an advocacy group that wasn’t affiliated with the TRIP study, said the costs of improving roadways is just the tip of the iceberg. Olsen warned of a “looming fiscal cliff” coming for statewide transportation projects. According to Olsen, many of these are funded by bond proceeds or other short-term funding sources. “Very few of these projects are funded out of pure highway funds,” which Olsen said are not adequate at current levels to maintain road quality, let alone take on new projects.

Olsen noted major revenue sources for the highway fund haven’t been update to reflect increased road usage. Olsen cited the vehicle registration fee, which was last increased in 1985, and the motor fuels tax, which was saw its last bump in 1991.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Texas Association of Business said it would push for a $50 increase in the fee motorists pay to register a vehicle in Texas during the upcoming legislative session. It suggests the revenues raised by this increase could be leveraged to raise $16 billion in bonds for road improvements.

The study is here. You would think if there’s a consensus to spend money on one thing in Texas it’d be roads. That Lyceum poll, crappy as it was as electoral information, did find that people were willing to have their taxes increased for things like education and water infrastructure, but alas it didn’t ask about the much-maligned gas tax. I’m willing to bet there’d be a solid majority in favor of raising it, but good luck finding enough legislators despite the support from Senate Transportation Committee Chair John Carona and then-House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett. We can borrow money to pay for roads, but we can’t fix the badly underfunded revenue source for them, even though we’re all paying for the bad and congested roads we do have indirectly. Go figure.

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