Topic of transportation paved way to frank conversation at Public Policy meeting

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May 14, 2015
The latest Richardson Chamber Public Policy meeting on May 8 was thick with Texas transportation as a blunt update about stemming the tide of road disintegration in Texas was discussed. Drew Campbell, executive director of the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition, visited with around 30 in the Chamber’s boardroom.

Campbell is a veteran of working with the Texas legislature for 35 years as a lobbyist—a plain spoken and knowledgeable advocate for Dallas in a quest for obtaining funds to make sure that the Metroplex can address transportation needs to address its explosive growth.

Campbell gave his view and predictions about what Texans can expect the legislature to fund transportation–wise during this year’s session. “This is the first time in 28 years we have a governor who is not running for president,” Campbell said, with his expectations high that concentrated efforts will be made toward making hard decisions in this year’s legislature, despite so many new legislators in the capitol.
“What we are going to get this year is new funding,” Campbell said.

Legislation is being presented and sent to conference to dedicate a portion of revenue, anywhere from $2.5-3 billion from the state sales tax. Added to the $2 billion allocated from the last session 2 years ago with Prop 1, these combined funds lead to $4.5-5 billion per bi anum. The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) says they need $10 billion to be fully funded, so Texas will get half of that. The goals for transportation include to keeping congestion from getting worse and to maintain the current physical condition of the state's roadways. The ratio for maintenance compared to new road construction is 10:1. Campbell believes that DFW itself will see $1.4 – 1.8 billion, with the east side (ie Dallas and area) receiving $600-800 million.

“It will be better, and we will start to see some projects move forward,” Campbell said, though not as much as he thinks is necessary given the larger and growing population in DFW. “Texas has $24 billion proposed transportation projects on the books state wide now, with $11 billion in Dallas, so we’ll use that up.”

A top question that Campbell gets is with the hard travelled lanes on Central and LBJ highways.
“Nothing is going to happen on 75 or 635 in this session. This opportunity has passed,” Campbell said. Because the HOV lanes were paid with federal monies, it would be too expensive to buy them back. Also, the legislature has decided on no new toll projects for local governments, so, “it will be a long time before some of these areas are addressed.”

Someone asked about the light rail between Dallas and Houston, but Campbell said it won’t pass for two years, as it was tied to the budget.

In closing, Campbell said, “Call your state rep and senator. They’re good people, who need to hear from you.”
Other issues were discussed, but probably not appropriate for publication to protect the opinionated. Don’t miss out on the next Public Policy session, Friday, June 12.
Kedzie Arrington, Intern, (972) 792-2807