Special to the Register
AUSTIN - Recognizing a growing traffic safety concern in the state’s energy-production areas, the Texas Transportation Commission recently approved $225 million for much-needed road work resulting from the state’s oil and gas boom. The funding, provided by the Legislature, will allow the Texas Department of Transportation to begin repairing and rehabilitating roadways damaged by heavy trucks and increased traffic in these regions.
“The energy sector provides a tremendous economic boost to the state of Texas, but it must be supported in a manner that is safe to everyone on our roadways,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood. “The increased volume of heavy vehicles on aging Texas roads is causing stress on our infrastructure, which over time, can result in unsafe conditions.”
As the Texas oil and gas industries help move the United States toward energy independence, it is estimated energy sector traffic across the state has caused $400 million in immediate roadway safety concerns such as severe edge damage on narrow roadways, deep rutting and pavement damage. Estimates show an additional $1 billion per year is needed to restore roadways heavily impacted by energy development to “good” or “better” conditions.
“While increased energy exploration and production activities are yielding tremendous economic benefits for Texas, the unprecedented volumes of heavy traffic are contributing to crashes and fatalities,” said TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson. “Fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes in Texas rose by 11 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year. We are pleased that our lawmakers saw fit to fund some of these safety-focused rehabilitation and repair projects, and we hope resources that enhance safety will continue to be a priority as our energy industry thrives.”
With more than 80,000 miles of highway, Texas has the largest highway system in the nation. In addition to the booming energy industry, more than 1,000 people move to Texas each day, further crowding the state’s aging transportation system. The increasing number of vehicles combined with the state’s aging highways will continue to require a balanced program of preventative maintenance, rehabilitation and reconstruction.