MCALLEN, Texas – The Texas Association of Business says available roadway funds are under strain from dramatically reduced oil severance tax, gasoline tax and motor vehicle sales tax revenues due to the COVID-19 recession and falling energy prices. 

As a result, the group says, highway funds available for South Texas and statewide roads and highways are expected to take a big hit. 

In response, TAB argues, Texas should once again look for innovative ways to fund transportation construction projects, including state-approved private investment and optional toll lanes to pay for improved infrastructure.

TAB recently launched a new campaign called Keep Texas Moving. To amplify its message, the group hosted a webinar with Steve Ahlenius, president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. 

“With COVID-19 we recognize it is having a broad impact on the economy. I think this is an opportune time to look at private/public partnerships in terms of investments, as far as highways are concerned,” Ahlenius said.

Ahlenius noted that Texas has done that in the past. 

“I think it is an opportunity to revisit that because I think we are going to have some specific challenges when it comes to funding for the state budget. And, just keeping up with the growth.”

Ahlenius said there may not be a lot of transportation projects viable under a P3 model for South Texas. However, he said that does not mean the region would not benefit.

“There may not be a lot of P3 projects in South Texas but what I try to remind folks is, those P3 investments are opportunities that happen in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and the Dallas/Fort Worth area will free up additional money and could impact us in a lot of positive ways.”

One question posed by a caller was, does the Rio Grande Valley have any transportation projects that might work under the P3 model. Ahlenius responded: “One of the projects that could fit this category, possibly, is a second causeway for South Padre Island. These are obviously business models investors want to look at. We need to have the demand in traffic in order to make these projects work from a business sense. If you look around, that is probably at the top of the list as a local project that could possibly be a P3.”

To which Aaron Cox said: “Absolutely.” Cox, representing TAB, moderated the webinar. 

Cox said: “Keep Texas Moving believes Texas should once again turn to the private sector and leverage public-private partnerships and traffic management solutions like optional top lanes for motorists and truckers who chose to use them, to address the growing crisis our state is facing with its transportation system. With government approval and oversight public-private partnerships for highways mean projects can be designed, built, and completed years sooner and at little or no cost to state taxpayers.”

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