April 29, 2024 - TRA Newswire -

The Chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee, Representative Terry Canales, said we can not pave enough highways and add enough lanes through our current financing structures to meet the demands of a Texas population set to double by 2050, without even considering other transportation options.

"We need to find new ways to increase transportation infrastructure revenue while increasing funding for transportation alternatives", according to the chairman, during a video presentation at the 2024 Southwestern Rail Conference this month. "67 percent of all Texans live in our five major metropolitan areas. Shouldn't Texas have a dedicated fund for mass transportation where two thirds of its population lives?"

Hear Chairman Canales presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np9UxCU5v4I

Canales said that rail is a great option to reduce congestion on our roads and said he believes rail is an incredibly important tool that is underutilized. 

Federal rail programs usually require states to fund a portion of a project, something that Texas does not have the ability to do at present. Chairman Canales said "today the only was to fund rail projects is with an exceptional item request (through TxDOT to the legislature) that is a one time funding from the states' general revenue."

A vehicle for funding rail projects exists on the books and was approved by voters over a decade ago but has never been funded. It's the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund, a constitutional amendment that was passed by a majority of Texans at the polls. 

In the past session, the House tried to place a $200 million dollar appropriation request from surplus funds in the base budget on the table, but according to Canales "we have a lot of work to do to convince our friends on the Senate that the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund is a priority."