Our Rio Grande Valley is on the move.
We have the pieces in place for a regional Tier 1 University system stretching across the entire Valley. The Space X project will mean more high quality jobs and ancillary business opportunities. And, of course, we remain the gateway to Mexico, which means a steady stream of goods and commerce shipping back-and-forth from Mexico to the United States.
The Rio Grande Valley is in the center of the action. But our future hinges on one critical factor: Transportation.
Transportation serves as the heartbeat for any vibrant community. Transportation also serves as the link that connects our Valley growing communities. The growth and prosperity of the Rio Grande Valley require a modern and efficient transportation system. We must invest to make sure we build and maintain a first-class transportation system. We must invest in our children and their children.
My challenge to all who live in the Rio Grande Valley: Vote for Proposition 7 on the November 3rd election ballot. It’s a highway funding issue that literally would result in more than $100 million in additional road money flowing to the Valley each year for roads and bridges.
Prop 7 will not raise taxes, and the money could not be spent on toll roads. With voter approval, Prop 7 would dedicate $2.5 billion a year from the state’s general sales tax revenue for roads – starting in the fall of 2017. Two years later, a portion of the state’s motor vehicle sales tax revenue would be added to the mix. By 2020, these two sources should generate $3 billion a year. An estimated $70 billion will be raised during the first 15 years of the program. Texas legislators would then review the Prop 7 measure to determine whether it should be continued or modified.
It is crucial that we dedicate money for roads; otherwise, transportation planners cannot project far enough in the future to make them viable because they cannot be sure money will be available. It takes multiple years to conduct necessary environmental studies; to acquire right-of-way; to complete the surveying and engineering. And then it takes years to complete a major construction project. Predictable funding makes it easier to plan the major highway projects.
Texas highways were once the envy of the nation as our parents and grandparents built a world-class road system for this sprawling state. Our state keeps growing by approximately 1,200 people each day; older roads require maintenance; and more fuel efficient vehicles mean less gas consumption and less tax revenue. Unfortunately, due to lack of adequate funding a lot of our highways and infrastructure are falling into disrepair.
We face ever-increasing traffic congestion in our big cities and crumbling and unsafe roads in rural Texas. Experts at Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute and other transportation researchers have concluded Texas must invest at least $5 billion a year more on roads simply to keep traffic congestion at current levels. Texas voters helped move the state in the right direction last fall by approving Prop 1, which allocates a little more than a third of our tax revenue from oil and gas production for Texas roads and bridges.
Now, it’s imperative that we finish the job. And Prop 7 is the vehicle for doing just that.
Roads remain a core function of state government. Individuals cannot build roads. Roads are not Republican or Democrat, as Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville often points out: “They belong to everybody.”
Major issues often lead to contentious debate in the state Capitol. But legislators rallied behind Prop 7. Of 181 Texas legislators, only 1 voted against the measure.
Our Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, and we now have what big cities call, “rush hour.” We must invest in our transportation future. We are on the move, but we will need good roads to get around.
Early voting opens Oct. 19 – and Prop 7 is an easy vote. Rio Grande Valley voters should send a loud message to Austin. We are on the move – and we want to help ourselves get around.