Texas Transportation Commission member Bill Meadows of Fort Worth was one of the first speakers during an early morning Northeast Tarrant County Transportation Summit. Like many people, he's excited about the beginning of the four-year project in a corridor where about a quarter-million motorists per day.
But Meadows cautioned that the DFW Connector project is an example of a dangerous path transportation planners are taking. In an era when elected officials don't want to raise taxes to pay for roads, and revenues generated by gas taxes are on the decline because of increased fuel efficiency, many big projects are being paid for with debt and toll revenue to make ends meet.
The DFW Connector includes $250 million in stimulus funding, and $107 million in Proposition 14 funds that must be repaid over about 20 years by future gas tax revenues. There's also $667 million in gas-tax supported revenue. But ...
"Funds for this project were derived from debt, which is not sustainable, and the stimulus funding, which is not sustainable," Meadows said during the summit at the Grapevine Convention Center.
Meadows noted that a recent legislative report concluded that the Texas Department of Transportation would run out of money for new road work by 2013, although some skeptics have disputed that such a doomsday scenario would occur so soon.
But whatever year the state runs out of money, he said, the point is that the state will eventually run out of gas tax revenues, and will be forced to consider other taxing sources.
"At some point in the very near future, TxDot is not going to be able to fund any new tranportation projects forr expanding capacity in the state of Texas," Meadows said. "It's possible the resources will not even be sufficient for maintenance. We will see a deterioration of the system. In ancient civilizations one of the most fundamental elements they had was a system of transportation."