By Mary Alys Cherry
Texas is on the right track and doing quite well economically these days, but its transportation infrastructure across the state could stand some improvement, State Sen. Larry Taylor thinks.
And, we need to get busy on the proposed Ike Dike.
Speaking to a Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership luncheon at Cullen’s, he feels that while the state offers a good business environment, low taxes and limited regulations, “we have to take care of our transportation needs,” adding that “another $4 billion is needed for our roads.
“Why are we in this hole?” he asked, going on to explain that while more and more people are moving to Texas, leading to a need for more road repairs, motor vehicles are getting better mileage and motorists are not having to buy as much gas.
As the Texas Department of Transportation gets its funds from a tax on gas, this dip in taxes is leading to a shortage of funds to repair roads and build new ones. Taylor said “if the tax was raised one cent, it would mean $100 million more for roads.”
But that is not the only issue. The state sends millions of dollars in gasoline taxes to Washington and gets a smaller percentage back, he said, adding that the federal funding formula needs to be changed.
The Friendswood legislator also urged his audience to vote on the proposed transportation funding bill in November 2014. The constitutional amendment would divert half of the oil and gas severance tax that funds the state’s Rainy Day Fund, to roads, giving the highway department a potential boost of $1.2 billion annually. In earlier discussions, legislators acknowledged that it’s only a stop gap measure since the agency needs $4 billion more per year.
Turning to the Ike Dike issue, Taylor thinks “the state and federal government need to step up,” pointing out that Washington had spent $16 billion to protect New Orleans from storm flooding and now New York is getting help (with Hurricane Sandy damages).
“Yet there is no comparison when you consider that a national security issue is involved here,” he said, alluding to the fact that the Galveston Bay area is home to a vast petroleum complex that provides 26 percent of the nation’s fuel and a large percentage of the nation’s jet fuel. The unanswered question is what would happen if all these plants were flooded and shut down for six to nine months?
Building an Ike Dike makes more sense than the proposed Centennial Gate, that would only protect businesses in the Hartman Bridge area, leaving hundreds of thousands of businesses and residents unprotected, Taylor said.
“We can’t be fighting over what to do. It makes more sense to me to put up an Ike Dike at the entrance of Galveston Bay, whereas more people and businesses would be protected.” The audience agreed.