Tag Archives: Texas roads

Could Worsening Traffic Congestion Hinder Texas Growth?

If you asked most people “what is the life-blood of Texas?”  The first answer they would probably give you is “oil”.  “Water” or “money” could likely come in as other popular answers.

The answer that more people need to consider?  The life-blood Texas, or of any state is roads.  Everyone in the Lone Star State depends on roads to get from point A to point B, to put food in grocery stores and restaurants, and to move other goods and services across the nation and the world.  But from the recent inaction of the Texas Legislature, one wouldn’t know that roads are so important to a rapidly growing state.  Here’s an interesting take from Aman Batheja of the Texas Tribune

Among America’s biggest cities, Houston has emerged as a national leader in job growth since the recession, spurred by a low cost of living and a booming energy industry. Bob Harvey, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development group, regularly chats with local employers and those thinking about bringing new jobs to the city. Listening to complaints about Houston traffic comes with the territory.

But last summer, Harvey observed a shift. In conversations with business leaders, concerns about congestion began surfacing more frequently and with greater urgency.

“I can now pretty much count on it coming up in every conversation,” Harvey said late last year. “It’s just the furious amount of growth we’ve seen in the last couple of years that has overwhelmed that problem.”

Variations of Harvey’s experience can be found in other major Texas cities. As the state has outpaced the other 49 in economic growth over the last decade, Texas has seen a surge in its population that’s expected to continue for years to come. 

But the prospect of 20 million more Texans by 2050 has both urban planners and business leaders worried that not enough is being done to prepare for the state’s more crowded future and the potential drag on the economy that might come with such grinding traffic.

Population is going to double. Transportation doesn’t come anywhere close to doubling,” said Tim Lomax, a research engineer with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. “Is the congestion in the Texas cities going to get so much worse that instead of Texas being a place that attracts jobs, it becomes a place that repels jobs?”

It’s a burning question that everyone in the state needs to be asking. But the conversation starts with funding.  Republicans in the legislature say that they do not support raising taxes to support Texas’ infrastructure needs, nor do they advocate for spending existing money such as that from the ‘rainy day’ fund.  If the state doesn’t start trying to tackle this problem, it will hinder economic prosperity.  More from the Texas Tribune…

In 1999, computer manufacturer Dell made headlines when it acknowledged that Central Texas traffic had contributed to its decision to expand in Tennessee rather than at its Round Rock headquarters north of Austin. Concerns that the company’s decision would be followed by a wave of copycats never materialized, but regional traffic problems remain a serious concern, said Jeremy Martin with the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“It has impacted expansion opportunities,” Martin said, though he declined to give specifics. “Companies want to be close to where their employees live and want to make sure there’s adequate transportation and real estate available.” 

“Adequate transportation” by most standards is not exclusively roads.  Several Texas Metros, including Dallas and Houston are working hard to improve mobility in their respective regions.  Both are investing heavily in various forms of public transit.  Local solutions are critical to help the state’s traffic woes, but the legislature in Austin should not expect for municipalities to bear the full burden, or the cost of preparing for Texas’ future.

All the more reason to make transportation a central issue of the 2014 elections.  Texas voters need to hear from state lawmakers about their plans for road and infrastructure funding, and need to know that those lawmakers have the political will to solve these issues.  If roads are indeed our life-blood, let’s not wait for a heart attack.


The ABCs of the GOP: O is for…


One aspect of life that none of us can escape is our sense of obligation. Whether we like it or not, whether we agree or not, there’s just some things that we have to do. Most of us have obligations to our loved ones, to our selves, and of course to our country. And like our individual lives are filled with tasks that are obliged to, so is our government also obliged to keep the country working as best as possible.

But among Washington Republicans, there has been a growing sense of rebellion toward these obligations. As their war on government continues, many have sacrificed their obligations, and even their own principles to try and damage our country. Regardless of one’s core political beliefs, it’s starting to become clear that these obligations simply are not being met. Caught in the crossfire of the GOP’s war on government and fight for it’s party’s survival, the greatest casualty of this war turns out to be the American people.

As Paul Krugman notes from a recent New York Times piece, public investment has ground to a screeching halt at all areas of government. Federal lawmakers continue their ideological battles, which forced state and local governments to go into all-out austerity mode. As a result, we have cut back on all kinds of public employment… teachers, firefighters, police, construction contracts, and everything else that we need to keep our communities going. This is standard stuff that has never been controversial before… until Barack Obama was elected as President. As a result, we as a government (anyone that pays taxes is a PART of the government, by the way) are not meeting the country’s most basic obligations. After the Federal stimulus bill passed (with overwhelming Democratic support), any further attempts by President Obama to meet our national needs where thwarted by Senate Minority filibusters. So eventhough Democrats where “nominally” in power, the GOP was able to starve most of the legislation.

But sometimes is helps to get the laser pointer out and focus. Let’s boil it down to an issue that all of us understand… TRANSPORTATION.

If you’re reading this, and you live in the United States of America, you are our nation’s roads… and wearing them out. Even for those that don’t own a car, and live in places like New York City or San Francisco, you’re still wearing out our nation’s rapidly-declining freeway infrastructure. Every time you buy groceries at the market, everytime you buy virtually anything that you have to consume, you rely on the country’s transportation infrastructure to get those goods to you. Our country simply doesn’t “move” without our roads, railways, airports and seaports. Virtually everything that you purchase wears out our roads, and we as a nation have an obligation to not only maintain them, but improve them. Don’t forget… the US ain’t getting any smaller… we’re at 314 million and counting.

So when a new study by tripnet.org reveals that nearly half of all Texas roads have fallen into major deterioration, it should be a call to arms for people of all political stripes to step up and invest in our nation’s future. There is a reason why infrastructure spending has always been a “given” in Washington… it’s because everyone in the country depends on it to work. And not to mention, investment in America means investment in American JOBS.

Here’s the inherent danger of the upcoming election… for the GOP, this is no longer a purely ideological fight. Real evidence is now beginning to suggest that the Republican party has lost the ability to meet our country’s obligations. They have lost the ability to actually govern.

For evidence of this loss, look no further than a recent article from The American Conservative. Author Daniel McCarthy writes that the current GOP looks less like a viable party and more like a scam. A conservative himself, McCarthy write about the rapid changes that have occurred within the party, and how it has devolved into several branches that center around Religion and fear. These tactics may be useful when trying to control a militia, but they don’t serve well for governing a diverse nation like the United States. They continue to sign pledges saying that their top priorities are to ALWAYS cut taxes, reverse Roe V. Wade, and REPEAL Obamacare. Never a mention of the obligation to legislate on behalf of their contituents. The only thing that many in the GOP care about right now is the ability to advance their agenda.

As we enter the frenzy of the debates, this question for the GOP needs to be answered… if they were to actually achieve their goal of defeating Barack Obama, what then is their new goal? Would Mitt Romney really repeal Obamacare? If the defecit is their so important, will they continue to decimate infrastructure and education spending until it’s too late? Will we ever be able to meet our national obligations again? I’m kind of scared to find out.