Rep. John Raney says additional funding for rural roads needs another look

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - State Representative John Raney believes the legislature needs to take another look at helping counties maintain rural roads damaged by oil field traffic.

This past legislative session, Raney and his colleagues in Austin looked at a bill to provide new funding for rural roads, but it didn't pan out.

"I believe that next session we'll be looking at it again trying to help those communities where those oilfield trucks have damaged the roads and trying to help them in paying for those," said State Rep. John Raney, (R) - District 14.

"You know, for that several weeks this was pretty much the oil field's road," said Daniel Vines. He has lived off Wilson Pasture Road in Brazos County for the past 12 years. Vines said thousands of oil field trucks starting coming down his road for a new drilling site earlier this fall.

"These guys were coming out here and they knocked down fences, They made ruts. They got stuck. They knocked down tree limbs into the roadway and just left them and it was 24 hours a day," he said.

Vines would like to see these types of vehicles be more responsible for the damage they cause.

"From what we can see the county doesn’t have enough resources to be able to adequately maintain the road," said Vines.

"Well the Legislature doesn't give us any means to get any money back from the oil company," said Brazos County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sammy Catalena. He said there are around 160 miles of unpaved roads in his precinct.

"I know that everybody’s road is important to that person, I understand that. But we can only get to so many roads with the amount of dollars that we have," said Catalena.

He said oilfield companies also are allowed access to public roads.

"They feel like they pay taxes like everybody else and so they're entitled to do business," he said.

Raney said the legislature did work on a grant program with TxDOT, but counties have to match funds.

"We did appropriate in the appropriations bill $1,250,000 and then took $1,250,000 out of the rainy day fund, our economic stimulus fund, for that. There is some money out there. I'm sure it's not adequate. There's never enough money to go around," said Raney.

Vines hopes things will change.

"We'd love to see more resources diverted to the county to handle these conditions," he said.

"You know, we love oil. We love to be able to run our vehicles but the deal is if these companies that are profiting from this, these are public roads but they do need to contribute in order to keep these roads up for the other folks that use the roads," said Vines.

County commissioners said there are future plans to improve Wilson Pasture Road. Right now, it's a low priority with a lack of money and because there aren't very many homes on that street.