The Texas Department of Transportation or TxDOT says it needs $1 Billion dollars more every year to maintain the 80,000 miles of roads in the state. They say they need the money for maintenance and to help with capacity because the state's population is growing at a rapid rate. "Right now everyone knows TxDOT doesn't have near the amount of money it needs to address all the streets and highways that it has. So any additional funding from Austin and the federal government will make a major stride in all of East Texas." J.C. Hughes works for Marshall Public Works. It's his job to make sure Marshall's city streets are in good condition. He says more money for East Texas infrastructure from TxDOT will trickle down to all East Texas cities and towns."Tied into our local streets, we have a lot of TxDOT roads through town, and any increased funding will certainly help."
Marshall Mayor Ed Smith agrees, "Any federal money that comes through TxDOT for any of those highways is beneficial to Marshall because we have high traffic count through both of those roads." He says there are several street projects in East Texas that rely on TxDOT money to get finished. One of those projects is the completion of Loop 390. "That's a project we've been waiting a number of years to finish so any funds that are available going forward for infrastructure improvements, that's one area we'd like to see looked at closely."
As options to furnish TxDOT with necessary funds, lawmakers are considering raising the gas tax, which leaves you paying more at the pump, raising registration fees on cars in texas, or raising the sales tax when you buy a new vehicle. Texas House of Representatives member Chris Paddie says, "We can agree on that, it's a big deal. Sometimes what we can't agree on is how you pay for it. I don't know where we end up there, we are going to have lots of debate and discussion about that, but one thing we can agree on is that we can't afford to invest in our transportation." Right now, more than 20,000 cars and trucks travel through Marshall on I-20. More than 17,000 vehicles travel through the city on US 59 every day, and those numbers are expected to grow in the years to come. "As that traffic continues to increase, and there's studies that show that it's increasing exponentially. At some point you have to look at that roadway and say can you accommodate that level of traffic," Paddie concludes.
Law makers will meet over the 83rd Texas Legislature to discuss ways to solve the funding issue on Texas roads. They will discuss options on how to pay for the additional money TxDOT needs.