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Wed January 07, 2015 - West Edition
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) More than $1.7 billion will be available for Texas highway projects because of a constitutional amendment that allows more money for roads, lawmakers said.
A legislative panel decided Dec. 11 that the state Rainy Day fund’s minimum balance should be $7 billion, clearing the way for an estimated $1.74 billion of oil and gas severance taxes for road projects, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Voters approved the constitutional amendment in November.
The Texas Department of Transportation hasn’t identified specific projects that would be financed, but it issued spending guidelines that must be approved by the Legislative Budget Board.
TxDOT suggests that 30 percent be budgeted for congestion relief projects, primarily in urban areas. Another 30 percent could go toward “statewide connectivity’’ projects that would join rural areas to interstates and other state highways. The remaining 40 percent would be evenly split between maintenance and repair of damaged roads in the state’s oil and gas areas.
TxDOT’s deputy executive director, John Barton, said he expects some of the work funded by the newly available money to begin by early summer. All of the funding will likely be committed to projects by the end of next year, with construction following soon after.
“Our goal is to have all of this money out quickly,’’ Barton said.
Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson’s office said the Rainy Day fund currently has $6.7 billion, but will be at $8.44 billion after it receives half of last year’s oil and gas taxes.