FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 1999
(Austin, Texas) Today the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Border Affairs, Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, joined the Texas Border Senators in commenting on the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) new Border Trade Initiative released on September 28, 1999.
"The $1.8 billion which TxDOT is promising to expend in the Border over the next 10 years would be extremely beneficial if it accounts for expenditures that would be over and beyond the regular expenditures that would have normally occurred without the initiative," said Senator Lucio. "The figure would be even more impressive if it amounted to a significant increased percentage of all the funds that are available for similar construction and maintenance transportation expenditures during the same decade."
Responding to the information released last week by TxDOT officials indicating that "since 1991, construction and maintenance annual expenditures for TxDOT's Border districts have increased from $94.3 million to $338 million," Chairman Lucio noted that "TxDOT data shows that since FY 91 the state has expended significantly fewer funds in the Border districts compared to the average district expenditure." For example, in 1991 and in 1994, the combined Border districts' average for construction and maintenance expenditures were $47.1 million and $60.5 million, respectively, whereas the "all district average" totaled $98.6 million and $107.2 million for the same period.
Chairman Lucio went on to say that "although the expenditures for the combined Border districts are now closer to the 'average district' construction and maintenance expenditures, in the last eight years, TxDOT expenditures show that the Border districts have received only 7%, about $1.58 billion, of all similar transportation expenditure funds. 'Non-Border' districts, on the other hand, have received the lion's share of the $22.5 billion in maintenance and construction funds."
TxDOT's district construction and maintenance data shows that $21 billion have been expended in 'non-Border' districts, amounting to 93% of all funds for these expenditures in the same eight-year period (FY 91 through FY 98).
"I am interested to see if the $1.8 billion 'investment' that TxDOT is promising for the Border is not the same historical expenditure that would have normally been expended without this new initiative," Senator Lucio added. "The pattern is clear, in the last eight fiscal years, together the Border districts have averaged an annual expenditure of $66 million. If everything is held constant and the historical average continues to be the trend for maintenance and construction expenditures, then, in the next 10 years -- without the new TxDOT initiative -- the historical trend states that Border districts will expend about $1.98 billion for regular construction and maintenance expenditures."
Senator Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, stated "TxDoT is proposing a ten-year spending plan for the Border that seems to do nothing more than maintain current funding. This flies in the face of the fact that every study of the state's transportation needs for the last five years has demonstrated an urgent need to increase spending to respond to the growth of international traffic. Nowhere are those needs greater than along the Border."
Under the new TxDOT Border Initiative, if the $1.8 billion is averaged over 10 years to the three Border districts, the average funding available for expenditure per district would be $60 million.
"I'm equally interested to see what percent of the total money that is available to all of the transportation districts for construction and maintenance expenditure will go to 'non-Border' districts over the course of the next 10 years. To find out the true impact of this 'new' TxDOT initiative in terms of equitable, increased funding -- as well as an increased policy emphasis on our trade choke points along the Texas Mexico Border -- these and other questions must be answered by TxDOT," concluded Chairman Lucio.
"In light of this preliminary research and detailed analysis provided by my colleague, Senator Eddie Lucio, I agree several questions must be answered. I want to see what 'new' money is being invested and how TxDOT plans to handle Border inland ports and the needs of 5 million people apart from NAFTA related needs," stated Senator Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.
"With the Border Infrastructure Coalition's help, we were aggressive in advocating for additional border trade and transportation infrastructure last session," said Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. "Had TxDOT honored our request to include a Border Infrastructure Coalition representative on the Border Trade Transportation Task Force, its recommendations may have been more responsive. Clearly, the agency must address our concerns and champion increased funding for the Border Region's growing transportation needs," Senator Zaffirini said.