GRAYSON COUNTY, Tex. -- Texas Department of Transportation officials say plans for some area projects may be put on hold because of a lack of money. While road crews will continue working, there will be cuts and changes in store. Daniel Gotera explains how the shortage could affect your travels.
TX-DOT officials say they knew the budget might take a hit for the 2008 fiscal year, but they did not anticipate that number to be in the billions.
While current projects will be allowed to continue, it is the long term projects that might have to wait until more money comes their way.
"It’s a major blow to TXDOT, as far as what we have to use for our projects."
TX-DOT area engineer Kevin Harris is speaking of a $1.1 billion blow, to be exact. Now, officials in North Texas and across the state have to make some unexpected changes.
"Our aim has gone from mobility to moving cars quicker and easier to system preservation, which is moving them safely."
Harris says the department has been losing money for the past several years, but never this much. In a statement released this week, state officials say highway construction costs have risen 62% over the past five years, and the increase in the number of cars, more specifically gas-efficient cars, has done enough damage to current roadways that the state simply cannot keep up.
"In the past, we ran off of gas tax money that was pay as you go; there are more cars on the roadway, by far more cars but with the economy of the gas mileage, as far as reducing our income."
While the state will not launch any new projects anytime soon, current projects will be allowed to be completed. Harris says local projects like the expansion of U.S. Highway 82 from two lanes to four from Sherman to bells and the expansion of Highway 289 will go on as scheduled.
"We’ve got plenty of projects in the books as far as the Grayson and Fannin County areas to keep us busy and to keep the safety on the highways."
Harris adds that drivers should expect to see crews out on major roadways as usual, but instead of adding on they will be touching up to keep motorists safe.
"For our area and our district I think we're sitting in good shape because I think we're by nature a rural district, which we have a lot of rehab needs and our system preservation money is still going to be there."
TX-DOT officials say the losses will not just be seen in 2008, it is projected the fiscal year budget for 2009 will also go down from $2.9 billion to $2.5 billion.