Cornyn Op-Ed and Video: “A State-Federal Approach to Tackling Traffic”


In: All News   Posted 12/02/2019
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WASHINGTON –To highlight his work to update our infrastructure and reduce traffic for Texans, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following video detailing his legislative efforts on transportation in addition to his joint op-ed with Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission Bruce Bugg, Jr., published in the Austin American-Statesman. You can watch the video here.
 

A State-Federal Approach to Tackling Traffic
Senator John Cornyn and Chairman Bruce Bugg
Austin American-Statesman
November 25, 2019

Texas is growing — and fast. We’re adding an average of 1,000 new Texans every day, and many of them can be found right here in Austin. For all the economic benefits, this rapid growth is not without its challenges. The job market is more competitive, rents are on the rise and one frustration we’ve all dealt with is traffic.

In September 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott called on the Texas Transportation Commission to develop a strategic initiative to reduce congestion in our five major metropolitan centers. Under this effort, known as Texas Clear Lanes, the Texas Department of Transportation has completed two projects in Austin, including the 51st Street Roundabout and an upgrade to the Traffic Management System. More projects are coming down the pike.

TxDOT has more than $20 billion in projects under construction to improve transportation infrastructure statewide. Turning a proposal into a completed project can be an arduous and expensive process, with many bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. In Texas, we have been working to get projects off the ground as quickly as possible, without cutting corners or burdening taxpayers.

TxDOT has trimmed months and years from project timelines by taking on the federal government’s environmental review responsibilities for potential projects through the National Environmental Policy Act process. In December 2014, Texas entered a program called NEPA assignment, which provides the state with review and approval authority. Though the same requirements apply, TxDOT staff have been able to complete environmental processes with significant time savings.

Innovative funding models have been adopted in recent years to make it possible for Texas to invest in future non-tolled projects. Texas voters overwhelmingly approved two measures — Proposition 1 in 2014 and Proposition 7 in 2015 — with the support of more than 80 percent of voters each. These changes increase transportation infrastructure funding without a tax increase.

In Washington, we’ve made serious strides to restore and grow Texas’ transportation infrastructure. In 2015, Congress passed a multi-year transportation bill to provide certainty for Texas and other states to plan and fund long-term projects. With that measure set to expire in less than a year, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously supported a five-year, $287 billion highway bill this summer that would continue to improve our roads and bridges. That bill, if enacted, would restore $7.5 billion that would otherwise be cut in highway funding for the states, but more must be done.

It’s time to address the Highway Trust Fund, which provides funding for transportation infrastructure projects across the country. That money is distributed to states using an outdated formula, and Texans are getting shortchanged.

For every dollar Texas puts into the Highway Trust Fund, we get 95 cents in return. That’s not the same treatment every state is getting. In fact, Texas is one of only three “donor” states, and it receives a lower rate of return than every other state.

To continue rebuilding and revitalizing Texas roads and bridges, we are pushing for additional provisions to the highway bill to reform the distribution of federal funds and make the process more fair for Texas.

As we have seen with initiatives like NEPA assignment, Proposition 1 and Proposition 7, Texans are problem solvers. We are not looking to cut corners or receive handouts — we just want our fair share of federal support for our highways and bridges.

The revitalization of Texas’ transportation infrastructure is critical to making transportation safer, more efficient and more affordable for our growing population.

It’s time to inject some Texas common sense into the Highway Trust Fund to achieve a fair rate of return for Texas.