July 31, 2014
Thursday, July 31, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECONTACT: Sarah Howard, Office of Senator Kirk Watson: (512) 463-0114
While we’ve been successful in getting numerous major transportation projects funded and to construction over the past five years, there is much more to be done. I’m doing everything I can to bring about more solutions, almost every idea is worth considering and we’ll need a variety of types of projects and programs to truly make a dent in congestion.
Today, the Transportation Commission considered efforts that could help ease our daily commute in Central Texas. I strongly supported and encouraged TxDOT’s toll reduction pilot to incent big-rigs to get off of IH-35 and onto SH 130. I worked to find additional funds when the program was running out of money earlier this spring. I also asked and advocated for TxDOT to include a request for funding in its appropriations request to the next legislature. I plan to introduce legislation in the 2015 session that will continue the program. I’m pleased that TxDOT included this funding request in their draft appropriations request, which we anticipate will be finalized at the August Commission meeting.
Last session, I introduced a bill that would have required TxDOT to implement a pilot work-trip reduction program. TxDOT leadership agreed that it was a good idea and set to work on developing a robust work-trip reduction pilot program for their employees in the Austin area. With hundreds of employees at various locations around the region, this program can help improve mobility, reduce air pollution and serve as a model to other state agencies as well as private employers. The pilot will be well documented to identify best practices, lessons learned and impact. As a first step, a telework program will begin this fall, with a more robust pilot including multiple trip-reduction strategies implemented in 2015.
Also, Texans will have the opportunity in November to direct a portion of the revenue already coming to the state from oil and gas severance taxes to help pay for additional transportation projects through a constitutional amendment. The Commission appointed a working group of local level transportation stakeholders with specific issue expertise such as freight, urban congestion, ports and energy producing areas to consider potential methods for distributing those funds around the state. Trying to look at the glass half full, the good news about having some of the most congested roads in the state and being a fast growth community is that it’s broadly recognized that we need our fair share of those funds.