Here's an idea. What if, instead of maxing out its credit card on a road-building spree, Texas took care of the roads it already has? Crazy talk, right? If the past decade has proved anything, it's that the state's fiscal conservatism ends as soon as the asphalt begins.
So who, aside from a minority of policymakers in Austin, is peddling this pay-for-what-you-have nonsense? Ironically enough, it's an Agenda 21-style lefty group in D.C. called Smart Growth America, whose self-styled mission is to do things like "conserve energy and natural resources" and "protect environmental and aesthetic quality."
The nonprofit released a report on Wednesday highlighting the dangers -- fiscal and physical -- of states focusing on road-building over maintenance.
Texas, the report says, has a tremendous backlog of deteriorating roads and bridges that will cost $7.7 billion to keep in good repair.
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Needless to say, the $1.2 billion-per-year voters may put toward transportation come November won't solve the problem.
SGA disputes the notion that new roads equal economic growth. Mostly, they just shuffle existing jobs and households within a region. Investing heavily in maintenance -- or, better yet, public transit -- delivers more bang for the buck in terms of job creation and is more likely to spur development.
Texas officials know that they're way behind on road maintenance. Former TxDOT chief Phil Wilson said last year the agency needs $1 billion per year for maintenance alone. He was also pushing for $3 billion to fund new roads, suggesting that a paradigm shift has not yet taken place.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.