The Texas Department of Transportation announced this summer that over 80 miles of heavily trafficked rural roads in South Texas will be replaced with gravel in lieu of making needed repairs.
The roads in question are near the Eagle Ford Shale, an area that has seen a major oil boom in recent years. The farm roads there have been so damaged by the heavy traffic that they're now considered unsafe and have been the cause of numerous accidents. But instead of making the needed repairs, the roads will be turned into gravel. Accordingly, the speed limit will be lowered to 30 mph, making transit on these roads even more burdensome.
There's been enough public outcry that there is now a 60-day moratorium on the conversions, but the plan is still to move forward this fall.
Read more about about the reasons for the conversions after the jump. The conversions are, predictably, the result of a lack of investment in Texas's infrastructure. According to the Texas Tribune, “State lawmakers gave TxDOT a fraction of the budget it requested this year. The agency's request included a one-time infusion of $1.6 billion solely to address damage on state roads related to energy sector development. The Legislature allocated $225 million toward that issue.”
It's this lack of investment that caused the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Texas a “D” on its roads in 2012, noting that, “Texas now ranks 43rd in highway spending per capita in the U.S., falling significantly from number 17 in 2008.” Because when you don't invest in infrastructure, it doesn't fix itself.
There is, however, an opportunity for additional funding next year: “In an August special session, lawmakers approved a measure to divert some of the oil and gas tax revenue currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund toward road construction and maintenance. The plan is expected to raise $1.2 billion annually if Texas voters in 2014 approve amending the state constitution to allow it.” But that's part of the problem – funding for roads shouldn't come out of the Rainy Day Fund. Texas's growing economy is not an extenuating or unforeseen circumstance, but something that Texas legislators should plan and prepare for. When they don't, our roads literally turn to dust.