The way Texas throws around money for highways — $5.2 billion for a third outer-belt for Houston, $2 billion for Dallas’ eighth downtown highway – you would think TxDOT was running over with cheddar. This is a state, need we remind you, that “found” $350 million for a stalled highway project local leaders freely admit was designed to encourage sprawl, not solve any pressing mobility problems.
But the Lone Star State is on a crash course toward a big infrastructure crisis, according to a new report from TRIP [PDF], a think tank supported by road builders, insurance agencies and other interest groups.
In 2010, the group reported, 18 percent of Texas’ urban roads were in “poor” condition — in need of replacement — and 27 percent were in “mediocre” condition — in need of resurfacing. Three percent of the state’s bridges were “structurally deficient” and another 15 percent were “functionally obsolete.”
The group estimates that road conditions contribute to one-third of all traffic fatalities and serious injuries. In addition, poor road conditions cost the average Texas driver $400 annually in repair costs, or $6.1 billion statewide, annually. And the toll is worse in metropolitan areas, according to the group.
“Because maintenance is just not sexy with the voters, public officials have decided to spend that money on expansions and new facilities, new capacity,” said David Crossley, of the smart growth think tank Houston Tomorrow. “TxDOT, while complaining it doesn’t have enough for proper maintenance of the existing system, has nevertheless embarked in earnest on the social engineering project that is SH99, euphemistically called ‘The Grand Parkway,’ which is intended to open up new land for sprawl development at the very edges of the region. That’s a $6 billion project.”