Lawmakers Moving Forward on Interim Charges

 

March 3, 2018

 

The Texas Senate and Texas House transportation committees are at work dealing with their interim charges, studying issues before providing recommendations for action when the Legislature meets again in January 2019.


House Speaker Joe Straus has instructed the House Transportation Committee, chaired by Rep. Geanie Morrison of Victoria, to look at the ability of TxDOT to deliver highway projects and the adequacy of existing transportation finance mechanisms.  The committee is charged with identifying opportunities to improve existing finance mechanisms and investigating the feasibility of developing new one.


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s charges to the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, include the possibility of accelerating highway project delivery by segregating state and federal transportation funds.


Both committees are looking at the current state of infrastructure at Texas’ seaports and border ports of entry.  The idea is to identify transportation impediments to international trade and to estimate the impact of identified problems on the state’s economy.  The House Committee was scheduled to meet jointly with the House International Affairs committee on March 20th in Weslaco to work on this topic.

 


Here are other charges on the committees’ agenda for this year:


House Committee on Transportation
> Review the state's response to Hurricane Harvey and natural disaster preparedness with respect to the transportation system and transportation infrastructure. Make recommendations for improving agency operations related to emergency preparedness and response.


>  Study TxDOT’s ability to deliver highway construction projects that reduce congestion and improve mobility, including the Department's options and limitations related to contracting. Make recommendations to improve the Department's ability to complete complex projects on time and under cost.


>  Study Texas' various toll authorities and evaluate their transparency and stakeholder responsiveness. Make recommendations to improve the state oversight of toll authorities.


>  Review the management of the oversize/overweight permitting system and ensure that the state is adequately protecting the driving public and road integrity. Make recommendations to improve operations.


>  Study emerging issues in transportation related to technology and evaluate the state's preparedness for addressing challenges and opportunities posed by technological advances like intelligent transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, drones and other technological changes.


>  Evaluate the impact energy exploration and production have on state and county roads and make recommendations on how to improve road quality in areas impacted by these activities.


> Monitor the implementation of the TxDOT Sunset legislation and related management actions.


Senate Transportation Committee
>  Review the state’s appropriations for Texas’ ports and the Ship Channel Improvement Revolving Fund and make recommendations for increased investment to meet future needs.


>  Review penalty practices employed by toll authorities throughout the state and make recommendations to improve customer service and eliminate unjustified penalties.


>  Examine the anti-smuggling efforts of governmental and non-governmental entities under the committee's jurisdiction. Compare the findings to best practices in other states and make recommendations to help advance efforts in the fight against human smuggling.


> Review the state’s policy related to the naming of state highways for individuals and make recommendations to limit and reform the criteria of such designations.


> Monitor the following:
• Implementation of statutory changes specified in the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) sunset legislation. 1) requiring toll road entities to use toll revenue to pay back TxDOT for grants used to construct toll roads. 2) prohibiting TxDOT from operating or transferring a HOV lane as a tolled lane. 3) authorizing TxDOT to convert non-tolled lanes as toll lanes - only if the number of non-tolled lanes is greater than or equal to the number in existence before the toll conversion project. 4) prohibiting TxDOT from awarding contracts unless the contractor participates in E-verify; and
• Progress of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) efforts to issue an annual permit for transporting overweight, sealed intermodal shipping containers on TxDOT approved routes within 30 miles of a port of entry or an international bridge.