Cities, Counties and State Have Shared History of Providing and Maintaining Safe Roads
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Cities, Counties and State Have Shared History of Providing and Maintaining Safe Roads

From: Phil Wilson
Executive Director

The Texas Department of Transportation and the state’s counties and cities have worked cooperatively over the past 96 years to plan and build this comprehensive system of public highways and roads.  As our state flourishes and grows it is crucial that these time-tested partnerships continue to tackle the transportation challenges we face.

The Texas Legislature created the Texas Highway Department in 1917 and tasked the agency with assisting the state’s counties in building a comprehensive network of public highways across the state to connect the state’s largest cities together. Over time, the roles and responsibilities of our state, county and local governments for building and maintaining the various types of public roadways have evolved to ensure they best serve the needs of our citizens. TxDOT is responsible for connecting communities together and providing mobility improvements in our growing urban areas. Counties are responsible for providing local access to the state’s more rural areas. Cities are responsible for providing local access and circulation within their communities.  All three entities are responsible for cooperatively balancing their efforts to carry out these responsibilities while ensuring the safety of the traveling public.

The Texas Transportation Commission will be discussing this topic at its August 29 Commission meeting.  These discussions will include consideration of opportunities to evaluate the possible transfer of some roadways that are currently designated as state highways but serve a local roadway function to the appropriate local entity. Roads like Broadway, Fredericksburg Road and Bandera Road in San Antonio. TxDOT staff has already engaged many city and county representatives in these discussions to seek their input and feedback, which has been invaluable in developing a well-thought plan for possibly moving forward with this partnership program.

I propose a voluntary participation program that initially would allow cities and counties to ask to assume the responsibility for and ownership of non-freeway roadways within their jurisdiction that are currently designated as state highways. Understandably, many cities and counties may not have identified resources available to assume these additional responsibilities. For this reason, I am recommending that any city or county that asks to take over one of these “local” highways be compensated for the equivalent of one year’s worth of maintenance costs for that roadway. Since TxDOT is committed to handing back these local highways in good condition, it is likely these additional maintenance funds could provide sufficient revenues for ongoing maintenance for several years or be applied to other road projects in the city or county. Furthermore, the savings TxDOT realizes in the future from not having to maintain the local roads – potentially as much as $165 million per year – will be returned for use on mobility and safety challenges within the communities that accept responsibility for their roads.

By working together, our state, county and city transportation partners have accomplished great successes.  TxDOT is pleased to continue the discussion of this creative program with its partners as together we keep Texas moving into the future.

This commentary appeared on the Opinions page of the San Antonio Express-News on Aug. 27, 2013.

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August 27, 2013