D/FW AIRPORT — Voters in counties across the Dallas-Fort Worth region could be asked to approve new taxes and fees for roads and commuter rail as soon as spring 2011, according to supporters of a sweeping transportation bill filed Monday.
Dozens of legislators, mayors and other supporters of the so-called Texas Local-Option Transportation Act gathered Monday at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. One by one, they expressed optimism that the measure would pass during the current legislative session, triggering what likely would be multi-year process of identifying transportation needs in each county and taking the issues to voters.
The bill would allow counties to hold elections and ask voters raise new monies for development of commuter rail lines or to supplement funding for road projects. It’s being pitched as a remedy for North Texas’ chronically under funded gridlock and air pollution problems. “If we don’t have a forward-thinking transportation system, we won’t have economic development in this region 25 years from now,” said state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who filed the Senate version of the bill. The house version is being filed by state Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller.
The bill would allow Tarrant County and other neighboring counties to hold local option elections, asking voters to raise a menu of taxes and fees, within these limits:
- Higher motor fuels taxes, up to 10 cents per gallon, indexed to increase gradually with a cost of living measure known as the producer price index.
- An additional fee, known as a “mobility improvement fee” tacked onto car owners’ annual vehicle registration fee, up to $60 a year.
- Parking fees of up to $1 per hour.
- An additional vehicle emissions fee of up to $15 a year.
- Driver’s license fee, up to double the renewal amount — currently $24 for a basic noncommercial license.
- A new resident impact fee up to $250, paid by car owners registering their vehicles in Texas for the first time.
Using those funding parameters, each county could customize its own transportation plan to meet road and rail needs. Elections could be called in one of three ways:
- By vote of a county commission
- By a resolution of cities with a combined population of at least 60 percent of a county.
- By a petition signed by at least 10 percent of that county’s voters in the most recent gubernatorial election.