I am pleased to include the following commentary and pass along an invitation to the 23rd Public Conference of The Texas Lyceum Association, an organization of which I am proud to have been a founding Director 28 years ago as well as a Past Chairman. The Texas Lyceum continues to perform a commendable service to the state in its periodic forums and publications, but most importantly in its cultivation of emerging leadership for Texas. This essay is submitted by Melissa Castro Killen of the firm Tuggey Rosenthal Pauerstein Sandoloski Agather LLP, a member of the Texas Lyceum Board of Directors:
Prioritizing and financing transportation infrastructure has become one of the greatest challenges facing Texas today. Financing options and priorities are particularly challenging because the Federal Highway Trust Fund, the primary source of funding for maintenance and improvement of the interstate highway system, does not generate enough money to accomplish its mission. The impact of this deficiency in funding cannot be overstated. Texans can no longer rely solely on our national highways as a means of transportation.
While highways will continue to be a vital link in the state’s transportation arteries, we must plan for a changing transportation dynamic by exploring supplementary and complementary options. Once these options are identified, they must be prioritized to determine the best course of action to implement their integration into our overall transportation system.
The issue is one of balancing feasibility and benefits. Examples of complementary or alternative transport modes include bike lanes, bus rapid transit, toll roads, and commuter rail. Each offers value in reducing the strain on the highway system, but at varying levels of return on investment. The costs and benefits of each alternative will vary by region and community.
This alternative transportation infrastructure requires identification of funding sources. Traditional federal and state funding mechanisms are inadequate. There are a number of options that communities can explore, including issuance of bonds, public/private partnerships, and other solutions. No single solution will work for every community, but unless the funding can be identified and secured, the arteries of the Texas transportation system will become too clogged to meet our growing needs.
The Texas Lyceum public conference in Houston on December 3, 2008 will enable participants to participate in dialogue involving this important issue as well as other closely related topics and to provide input to the results of the conference proceedings, which will be presented to the Texas Legislature in advance of the 2009 session.
For more information on the conference and registration, visit the Texas Lyceum web site at www.texaslyceum.org.