HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Texas Chairman of the Committee of House Transportation, Terry Canales recently held a virtual townhall on Facebook, with state leaders to discuss COVID-19’s impact on transportation.
During the townhall, Canales said the focus of the conversation was on funding and safety.
Canales says funding for the upcoming transportation budget in Texas is way down. Most of the funding largely comes from the gas tax, as well as other funding has amounted to an $800 million shortfall.
Canales says funding is down because people are driving less during the pandemic.
Canales says even though revenue is down, it is important that the needs of the transportation, and the infrastructure in Texas moves forward. With the population of Texas expected to double in the next 25 years, Canales says our lives would not be the same with twice the amount of traffic on the roadways.
State revenues forecasted to the legislature, by the State Comptroller, from the severance tax of oil and gas production are also down. Canales says this will amount to some very difficult budget challenges this upcoming legislative session.
“We were already at a funding deficit. Texas can’t afford as it stands through current traditional funding methods to preserve and maintain the existing 200,000 miles of roadways that we have, and so the fact that we’re operating at a greater deficit is concerning,” says Canales.
Canales says although revenues are down, taking away money from the transportation budget is not the answer. He suggests that in the future, the state begins to look at more stable streams of revenue.
Every day for nearly the past 20 years someone has died on a Texas roadway. The state has even initiated an End the Streak Campaign, in an effort to combat deaths on Texas roadways.
Canales says even though there were fewer people on the roads, the number of people that died was the same if not greater, due to other factors like stress, drunk driving, and things related to COVID-19.
This consistency of deaths, while roadways were less congested, was baffling to state leaders.
During the townhall, Canales also praised state leaders in transportation for utilizing technology to pivot and change operations. Canales says those changes benefited employees, as well as keeping the public informed and engaged, surviving and flourishing in the face of COVID-19.
Canales adds the faster we are able to get COVID under control, the faster revenue streams will get back to normal, adding we must all do our part.
If you would like to take a look at the full town hall, you can click here.