Underfunded, Deadly Road Infrastructure in Texas

Bloomberg News investigates a rash of road deaths in the Midland-Odessa region, attributing the fatalities to underfunded road infrastructure, increased population, and truck traffic. A November ballot measure may provide some relief.

2 minute read

October 16, 2014, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"Drivers in the 12-county Odessa district were 2.5 times more likely to be killed in crashes in 2010 than the rest of Texas on average, according to Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance Inc., a business-backed organization in the region," write Mark Niquette and Rodney Yap

Texas, the second-most populous state with two-thirds the residents of California, had the most traffic fatalities in 2012. It tied for 11th with New Mexico in the rate of deaths [1.43] per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said." [See Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) chart. California's rate was 0.89; U.S. total was 1.14.]

Ballot Measure 1

"A constitutional amendment on the November ballot in Texas would allow an estimated $1.7 billion portion of annual oil-and-gas tax revenue to be allocated for highway work instead of going to a state rainy day fund," write Niquette and Yap. According to a Dallas News opinion in support of it, "(t)he state gas tax has not been adjusted since 1991 and vehicle registration fees have not significantly changed since 1987." 

However, the writers add that "(e)ven if the ballot measure passes, the state would be about $4 billion a year short of what’s needed just to keep the system performing at current levels, said David Ellis, a researcher at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute who testified before a state legislative committee in May."

An updated 2011 study from the Texas Transportation Commission concluded that the state needs increased revenue for infrastructure. Those sources could include a higher gas tax and registration fees, which politicians have previously rejected. Texans pay no income tax and less in transportation fees than residents of 43 other states, the report said.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, the state 20-cent gas tax ranks #42 in the nation [PDF].

[Hat tip to POLITICO Morning Transportation,10/15/14]

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