San Antonio – At a press conference attended by Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Florence Shapiro, the Texas Public Policy Foundation today released a transportation study entitled, The Road Ahead: Innovations for Better Transportation in Texas.
The study documents the cause of inadequate funding for transportation infrastructure needs in Texas and indicates several alternative and emerging funding mechanisms as well as new road and highway designs that will help reduce congestion. The study also addresses specific infrastructure issues for Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and border communities.
Texas currently ranks fourth to last of the fifty states in state highway expenditures per capita, having fallen 34 percent since 1980 and trailing the national average by 12 percent.
Spending per vehicle mile traveled in Texas is now 68 percent below the 1960 figure and 18 percent below the national average.
Meanwhile, Texas allocates almost 35% of its state motor fuel taxes to non-highway uses, the third highest of the fifty states. Of the total 1999 taxes and fees paid on vehicles, only 42 percent goes for transportation purposes.
“The road ahead lies in technology and by using our current revenues more widely. A tax increase is certainly not the answer,” stated TPPF President Jeff Judson.
Other key findings and recommendations include:
- Local transportation agencies should be encouraged to better cooperate to develop minimum roadway capacity standards for the travel demands
- In congested areas, surface arterials could be converted into surface expressways which limit grade crossings to signalized intersections and forces left turns to the right on access roads.
- Build new limited access bypass roadways to relieve congestion on surface arterial streets in developing areas. These can be grade separated and have entrance and egress controls.
- Build truck freeways – exclusive roadways built above congested freeway corridors for commercial traffic, largely trucks.
- Build reversible lanes – lanes adjusted during peak periods to better accommodate demand.
- Remove bottlenecks – removing bottlenecks at the nation’s 18 most congested freeway interchanges would significantly reduce local mobile source air pollution, while saving commuters traveling through these interchanges an average of nearly 40 minutes per day.
- Deploy automated tolling systems – toll roads in the state can be converted to full electronic tolling. All tolls are collected through electronically read cards on windshields. License plates of cars that do not have the electronic cards are photographed and users are billed through the mail. Elimination of toll booths would reduce traffic congestion, speed travel, and improve pollution in the local area.
- Electronic road pricing – Use peak period and mileage?based user charges to finance roadway system improvements. Higher user charges during peak travel periods would encourage some diversion of vehicle travel to less congested periods.
- Build metroroute tunnels – a single tunnel carrying two decks of automobile (only) traffic are far less costly per person mile than new light rail systems.
- Pursue double decked freeways – double decking makes it possible to add up to six lanes of traffic without taking additional right-of-way (examples are Interstate 35 in Austin and Interstate 10 in San Antonio).
The study, The Road Ahead: Innovative Transportation Financing Options for Texas, was conducted by Wendell Cox, Chairman of the Financial Analysis Committee of the Amtrak Reform Council, and Tom Rubin, former Chief Financial Officer for the Southern California Rapid Transit District. Both authors are senior fellows with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.