The “mother of all unfunded mandates” in the state of Texas won’t be that bad.
After hearing from many elected/public officials, including those from the Texas Panhandle, a proposal from the Texas Department of Transportation to turn over some state roadways to local municipalities, namely cities and counties, won’t be forced on anyone.
Call it a road to compromise — a rarity in government these days, at least on the federal level.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Moseley, in Amarillo this week for the 16th Annual Ports-to-Plains Alliance at Amarillo Civic Center, said the proposal is voluntary.
That’s good because when elected officials at different levels of government can’t even agree on how to describe what the state is doing under this proposal (the terms “turnback” and “abandonment” of state roads have been used, depending on perspective), it is best not to force the issue.
Moseley described the proposal — which according to reports in August would save the state $165 million annually — as “local control.”
That’s not totally inaccurate, but many elected officials were not thrilled about possibly having to assume the cost of repair and maintenance on what used to be state roadways.
“There is an offer to dialogue with cities to take local control of state highways that have become city streets. It is a volunteer initiative,” Moseley said. “It really gives cities local control of those roadways and provides them funding for the initial maintenance as they take that roadway.”
Moseley said “more than a dozen” cities are speaking with the state about taking over state roads, and the state will provide one year of maintenance funding before a city assumes control.
As far as Amarillo is concerned, the state initially proposed turning over 27 miles of state roads to the city.
Pardon the pun, but it remains to be seen if Amarillo will take this road.
“We have an arrangement to take care of some areas now because it makes sense economically,” Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole said. “The massive turnback they were talking about with no type of funding … now they are talking about trying to help with funding as you turn back.
“We’ll certainly talk to them. We just didn’t want anything dumped in our lap without any funding. If it makes sense for us to do it, yes, we’ll do it.”
In this case, the state has managed to avoid another unfunded mandate, and that is a road many cities may take.
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Amarillo Globe News Editorial 10/2/13 8:50pm