The Dire States Tour, seven events in three days, is traveling across Texas and kicked off its first day in Brownwood Tuesday to support Proposition 1, which will help fund improvements in Texas road infrastructure. On Wednesday, the tour made it’s way into Abilene as well, stopping at the Hilton Garden Inn located on 4449 Ridgemont Drive. The stop in Abilene was also made in conjunction with the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.
CASE Construction Equipment has partnered with the Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association and ASCO Equipment to bring its Dire States initiative to Texas in support of Proposition 1 (the Texas Transportation Funding Amendment). The amendment, which would direct an estimated $1.4 billion annually from oil and gas tax revenues, will be on the Nov. 4 ballot and support investment in new highway/transportation construction and maintenance.
The tour also highlighted fifth generation road builder and author Dan McNichol who drove a 1949 Hudson Commodore across the U.S. to experience the country’s road infrastructure in a car that is as old as some of the country’s failing road infrastructure to illustrate the importance of maintaining and repairing roadways.
“What a great metaphor of our great past and our rusty existence, where we are today,” McNichol said. “This old car is as old, rusty and as energy defunked as America’s infrastructure – the bridges you drive across, water pipes you drink from, the aviation systems we depend on, look like that car.”
The Hudson, named “Mrs. Martin” after its original owner, was on display for attendees at the event and photos of McNichol’s trip were shown in a slideshow.
Lawrence Olsen, VP of the Texas Good Roads, explained that Proposition 1, which will be on the November ballot, proposes funding of $1.4 billion per year from oil and gas severance taxes to be paid into the highway fund. This money will help fund projects throughout the state. He stated that none of the funds will be used to build toll roads, and the money will be spent in accordance with the current regulated formulas.
“If this proposition is passed in November, Brownwood will get money and projects out of this,” explained Olsen. “The very next day after the election, the Comptroller will transfer this money to the funding of projects that are waiting to be completed.”
Olsen pointed out that for every $1 billion invested statewide, 30,000 jobs are created. He said that usual funding for Texas Department of Public Transportation projects are financed from the highway fund and interest paid causes loss of dollars that could be utilized for projects. This proposition does not require any financing.
“If this proposition is not passed, it will result in a serious setback; funding will be reduced back to levels we haven’t seen in 10 years,” he said.
Olsen said that like much of the country, Texas has underinvested in infrastructure.
“This amendment will serve as a good first step in providing new methods of investment – but it’s just that: a first step,” Olsen said. “Many state and independent organizations report significant funding gaps for years to come to simply maintain road and bridge maintenance/congestion at 2010 levels. Now is the time to build a better infrastructure for future generations.”