Rising Costs Threaten TxDOT’s $85 Billion Highway-Building Plans

Texas Transportation Commissioners must have a hangover—backing off its highway building ambitions just a few months after approving the $85 billion Unified Transportation Plan in August 2022.

2 minute read

January 3, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A view of Houston's freeways, with downtown in the background.

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

Just a few months after approving $85 billion in road building projects as part of a ten-year Unified Transportation Plan approved in August, Texas Transportation Commission officials warned the public that some of the state’s massive highway building plans might have to wait.

“Rising labor and material costs prompted a warning from the Texas Transportation Commission Tuesday that some highway projects could have to wait,” reports Dug Begley in a paywalled article for the Houston Chronicle. Inflation is already pushing the cost of some of the projects in the Unified Transportation Plan by more than 30 percent, according to commissioners and data cited in the article.

“For November the state's highway cost index — which tracks the average cost of materials and labor based on recent bids on construction work — was 31.3 percent higher than it was a year ago and 37.5 percent above November 2019,” writes Begley.

Transportation Commissioner Alvin New is quoted in the article suggesting that there might be a point where the state finally has to say “no” to road building projects. Despite the sudden sobriety on the Texas Transportation Commission, the state did recently decided to move forward with the controversial North Houston Highway Improvement Project to widen Interstate 45 in Houston.

The source article below digs into more detail about the potential risks of building too much, too fast as a response to inflation, and what the state stands to lose if inflation takes a chunk out of the plan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022 in Houston Chronicle

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