North Texans expecting more traditional, non-tolled roadways are in for a big disappointment—they’re last in line for public funding. According to the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), bicycle lanes, toll roads and passenger rail will be funded first in the hope of “inducing” Texans off roads.
For anyone who primarily drives a car and dislikes traffic, this is troubling news. The below chart details the RTC’s approved plan, which lists projects by funding priority (in billions of dollars).
The RTC’s stated goal is to “reduce demand” on roadways. It’s supposedly based on an unsubstantiated belief that we “can’t build our way out of congestion” due to an alleged lack of funding. But the above chart exposes this claim for what it is—propaganda to justify increased population density, a disdain for cars, an obsession with passenger rail and a desire to levy more “excess toll” taxes, not to pay for road expansion, but to fund non-road pet projects.
The claim of “inadequate” funding raises several obvious questions. If the RTC doesn’t have enough tax money for roads, where did they find the $3.9 billion to build DART, the TRE and other passenger rail? Looking forward, where do they plan to find the $15.1 billion to fund hundreds of miles in new rail lines?
To put those figures in perspective, their own data suggests the $19 billion in rail pork could have built over 1,200 miles of new freeways and arterials, or 40% of the new road projects in their 2035 plan, without raising taxes or levying new tolls.
That’s equivalent to a 25% increase in the total roadway infrastructure for the entire Metroplex region.
Instead, residents have been bludgeoned with new tolls and higher taxes as a means to pay for road expansion, in part, because of revenue diversions to passenger rail lines.
In addition to rail’s upfront costs, the ongoing expense of annual operation is often overlooked. Cities such as Irving, Plano and others are collectively diverting hundreds of millions of local tax dollars annually to cover the expenses (and losses) of rail. If new lines are built as planned, that number will grow.
This fact raises another obvious question, if transportation funds are scarce, shouldn’t freeways and arterial roads be the first funding priority?
There are two glaring problems with the RTC—one relates to process, the other to policy. First, its backwards process allows unelected bureaucrats to control all aspects of project selection thereby undermining state and local control. Second, its policy-making authority empowers it to hold funding hostage, and divert state and local revenue away from roadway expansion.
RTC technocrats want to force Texans to use transportation methods commuters don’t currently need simply because arrogant, liberal elitists in Washington want you to drive less. And they’re obtaining the “approval” of local officials by threatening to withhold state funding for anyone who opposes their agenda.
This dynamic can change, but only if citizens demand vocal action from their state, county and local officials. After all, the RTC has been granted its power by the legislature. Residents should ask their representatives when roads, not rail, will become the top transportation priority before they attempt to “fix” the problem by recklessly throwing more money at it.