Transportation news in Texas was dominated by money in 2013 and, in particular, the question of how to address a multibillion-dollar shortfall in the Texas Department of Transportation’s budget. Lawmakers ultimately debated the issue over three special sessions before agreeing on a partial solution that voters will be asked to approve next November.
The oil and drilling boom placed another spotlight on the cost of maintaining the state’s transportation network. Officials in West Texas and South Texas struggled to respond to damage to their roads from a surge in drilling-related truck traffic. TxDOT’s decision to convert some of the roads to gravel drew national attention to the issue, along with criticism from many state lawmakers.
The southern portion of the State Highway 130 toll road opened in late 2012 to much fanfare, sporting the fastest speed limit in the country at 85 mph and benefiting from a public-private partnership that supporters hoped would be a model for future projects. But traffic on the road fell far below expectations in 2013, prompting a credit ratings agency to severely downgrade the SH 130 Concession Company's debt and raising fears that the company could default next year.
TxDOT also ended the year under a cloud of uncertainty as Executive Director Phil Wilson resigned to take a job as general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/12/26/year-review-transportation/.