TX Approves Record $85B Transportation Plan

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2022


Texas Governor Greg Abbot recently announced the advancement of a record $85 billion statewide roadway construction plan through the Texas Department of Transportation. The 2023 Unified Transportation Program (UTP) is a 10-year plan that guides the development of transportation work across Texas.

“The State of Texas is working to ensure the transportation needs of our fast-growing state are met and that the safety of Texans on the roadways is protected," said Governor Abbott. “TxDOT's 2023 Unified Transportation Program is a critical step toward addressing the diverse needs of Texans in rural, urban, and metropolitan communities.

“This 10-year plan to address transportation needs statewide and dedicate $85 billion to improve roadways will be a huge boon to our state's infrastructure and booming economy. As more people move to Texas and businesses grow across the state, we are working together to make sure Texans’ transportation safety and mobility are secured and businesses can flourish for generations to come.”

2023 UTP Plan

Organized into 12 funding categories, the UTP authorizes the distribution of construction dollars expected to be available of over the next decade. Projects are selected by TxDOT alongside elected officials, local planning organizations and the public to fund the state’s highest priority transportation projects.

According to the release, the 2023 UTP reflects and “unprecedented” level of projected transportation funding to improve transportation safety, address congestion and rural connectivity, and preserve roadways for drivers.

“Texas’ rapid growth reinforces the importance of investing in transportation to efficiently move both people and freight across our diverse state,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “TxDOT is working hard to not only build the new roads and transportation capacity Texas needs, but to maintain the more than 80,000 miles of roads and other transportation infrastructure under our care.”

The state reports that many of the projects in the UTP plan are roadway segments identified on Texas’ 100 Most Congested Roadways list and critical connectivity corridors. Projects will reportedly be funded through legislative and voter-approved initiatives that allocate portions of oil and gas taxes, sales taxes and other money to the state highway fund.

Funds will reportedly coincide with an additional $32 billion over the life of the program for routine maintenance contracts and project development. This includes planning, professional engineering, and right-of-way acquisition for more than 7,000 transportation projects and a total investment of $117 billion statewide.

Additionally, the average annual investment programmed into the plan in the next 10 years is expected to yield estimated $15.5 billion per year in economic benefits, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. An estimated 58,500 direct and indirect jobs are also anticipated to increase labor income and business output.

Material Shortages, Project Costs

Back in May, PaintSquare Daily News reported that TxDOT road infrastructure projects were being impacted by construction material shortages and cost increases, causing delays and driving up project expenses.

“Due to recent circumstances affected by world events, there has been significant volatility in the market for various construction materials,” wrote TxDOT Director, Construction Division, Duane Milligan in a memorandum.

“We have seen the availability of some materials become very limited or the material lead time has increased significantly. We have also seen significant increases (over 100% in some cases) in some material prices.”

According to the agency’s project tracker at the time, TxDOT was working on more than 15,700 projects totaling $157 billion. About half of the projects were reportedly underway or scheduled to start soon.

“Contractors all over the country have been running into extreme price increases and delays on getting materials delivered, and shortages of workers to perform the work when they do have the materials,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist with the Associated General Contractors of America, told the Austin Monitor.

Factors like rising petroleum costs, COVID-related shutdowns, increase for material demand and a worker shortage are all driving up prices for road-building materials like steel and concrete. The memo, issued by TxDOT at the beginning of April, also outlines points for contractors to consider to mitigate issues and keep projects moving:

  • Material on hand;
  • Quantity increase;
  • Price increases due to TxDOT delay;
  • Substitutions;
  • Item deletions;
  • Delayed starts;
  • Avoid sole sourcing;
  • Time considerations; and
  • Last resort (referring to TxDOT for further consideration).

A TxDOT spokesperson told reporters that it was too soon to say how inflation and material shortages could affect the timing or cost of the I-35 Capital Express project, a plan to widen the interstate by adding additional lanes. The current estimated cost of the expansion is $5.7 billion with $4.9 billion of that paying for the central portion from Ben White Boulevard to U.S. Highway 290 East.

Requiring some 30 acres of land through Austin, and the median sales prices of a home in the area reportedly topping $600,000, land acquisition will likely drive up these costs as well.

Two light-rail projects in the city, including a downtown subway, have been pushed to cost over $10 billion due to inflation and other design changes, which is a 40% increase over initial estimates. While an expansion in tunnel length also drove up costs, officials also noted that costs increased due to construction material inflation and real estate.

Simonson added that while more steel-making capacity is coming online over the next year or so, a shortage of construction workers could also complicate both projects.

“It’s an ongoing challenge for contractors to get enough workers,” Simonson said. “The country has really neglected its career and technical education programs that are the pipeline for bringing people into fields like construction.”

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Department of Transportation (DOT); Funding; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Transportation; Upcoming projects

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