With transportation taking center stage as the crisis du jour for the state, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) is seeking to maximize its legislative payout by feigning poverty. Yet somehow, despite not having enough cash to build roads, TXDOT does have the money to buy new passenger rail trains for Austin.
Recall last session the dire prediction by the agency that it would begin to turn large swaths of the state’s paved roads into gravel if the legislature failed to pass a colossal new transportation funding diversion from the state’s savings account. As of yet, no roads have turned to gravel, even though the funding measure will not be before Texas voters until this November.
Contrast the hollow fear mongering by the agency and its special interest and legislative allies with a new report in today’s Austin American Statesman. According to the Statesman, the city of Austin is set to receive $50 million from the allegedly beleaguered agency to buy new trains for the Capital Metro’s urban rail line.
The obvious first question to ask is, “why would TXDOT blow this money in light of its reported funding shortfall?” There can be little doubt that the calls be the agency for massive new cash infusions deserve major scrutiny while these frivolous expenditures are doled out.
TXDOT is already on thin ice with the public. In fact, the Legislature has so little faith in TXDOT that it has yet to give the agency a full 12-year sunset reauthorization in the last three legislative sessions. Given the hijinks like the agency’s recent Austin rail expenditure, it is beyond certain that a short leash for the agency is warranted.
Texans are right to be skeptical of TXDOT.
We are led to believe that transportation funding should be used for the main mode of transportation in the state: roads. Urban rail projects in Austin do not further the main purpose of TXDOT.
The next time TXDOT predicts doom and gloom with the state’s transportation future absent major new spending, simply ask, “where else is TXDOT wasting our money?” Texans deserve an honest and accountable TXDOT that prudently spends our money to build and maintain non-tolled public roadways. Urban rail boondoggles are a waste of our time and money.