Texas Thinks Outside the Lane on Transportation Planning
Texas is attempting to address its long-term transportation planning needs in a fairly radical way. "Radical" often has a negative connotation, but I mean it here in a good way sort of like how our Founding Fathers were radicals, which they were. The New York Times Sunday edition had a major article on Texas and its proposed use of public-private partnerhips to build new highways during the next few decades.
From the article, here are the basics of the plan:
The plan envisions a 4,000-mile network of new toll roads, with car and truck lanes, rail lines, and pipeline and utilities zones, to bypass congested cities and speed freight to and from Mexico.
The reasons behind the new ideas are also pretty clear:
Critics abound, but experts say Texas is addressing a problem certain to worsen nationally in coming decades: the price of gasoline may be rising but revenue from gasoline taxes is not, and with the rise of more fuel-efficient vehicles, less money is being raised for highway projects, even as traffic grows.
So transportation planners are increasingly looking to the private sector to put up construction money for toll roads in return for revenue from motorists.
“We’re relying on 1993 income for 2008 output,” said Robert Harrison, deputy director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas in Austin. “It’s unsustainable.”
The obvious question here is whether Missouri should consider similar ideas. Please note that Texas may be thinking bigger than other states, but California, Virginia, Florida, and other states are embracing public-private partnerships for transportation projects, too. In my opinion, Missouri should give very strong consideration to these ideas although on a smaller scale for the near future, at least.
For one thing, Missouri is not growing nearly as fast as the states listed above, so our needs are not as great as Texas’. However, we do have major transportation needs that we may be best able to address through PPPs. The success of the only toll remaining in our state, at the Lake Ozark bridge, demonstrates the opportunities available in PPPs. (I should be clear that the Lake Ozark bridge was not built as a PPP, but as it’s a toll it is comparable.)
The Show-Me Institute, along with the Reason Foundation, will be releasing a major study on this topic around the end of this month. Much more to come from us on this issue then!