Funding Reduced for State Road Construction

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Texas' Department of Transportation can longer count on $290 million to improve and update state roadways. The Federal Highway Administration has mandated earlier this week that Texas along with other states return federal-aid highway funds.

Randall Dillard, director of the office of public information at TxDOT's headquarters, says the money is needed to fund pressing national objectives.

"The federal government is responding to what are costly national priorities [like the] war on terrorism," Dillard said. "In responding to these growing national priorities, they are mandating states return federal transportation dollars to Washington."

Dillard says now they will have to decide where to make the cuts.

Bryan Wood is the district engineer for TxDOT in Bryan, and says the federal order is causing them to evaluate proposed and pending road construction.

"When we find out what programs are affected we can make some decisions about regarding future projects," Wood said.

Currently, Wood says there are close to 60 on-going road construction projects inside their ten district area. Those will not be affected by the federal government's shrinking budget. However, Wood says it is possible that proposed projects, like the one for Briarcrest and FM 1179, could be affected.

"We do not know if those funds will be cut," Wood said. "If it is, we could have to shift the dates slightly, but hopefully it will not be."

This is the second time in two years the government has cut funds from transportation programs nationwide. According to Dillard, last summer TxDOT was ordered to return funding. In fact, during the last 15 months, Texas gave back given $305 million.

With the federal government just ordering the state to return $290 million more, Texas will end up returning more than $500 million overall. The money was -- and possibly will again -- be taken away from new enhancement projects. These projects include hike and bike trails, as well as historic preservation and beautification jobs.

Because it is unclear what projects will be affected, TxDOT's Bryan District will be sending a representative to Austin on Thursday. The Texas Transportation Commission has scheduled a special meeting for the public to voice their concerns.

Wood says the district's Metropolitan Planning Organization has recognized that safety and current maintenance plans of local roads and bridges is too important not be funded. Bryan's representative will ask the commission not to cut those funds. They will also recommend that any cuts imposed be equal statewide.

"They are going to ask that those cuts are fair and equitable across the board -- large, small, urban, and rural areas," Wood said. "If those [cuts] have to take place, [we want to see] that everybody has to share in [them]."

The Texas Department of Transportation has until April 19 to notify the FHWA of their response to the order.