Nearly 180 years ago the toughest hombres ever to ride a horse and carry a rifle blazed a trail across Texas, conquering impossible odds to turn that hardscrabble land into one of the country’s most prosperous states.
Today, if there are any hombres left, they’re probably stuck in traffic.
One person who is helping build support for more infrastructure funding is Dan McNichol. As part of his nationwide Dire States tour, McNichol and his 1949 Hudson rolled into Texas last week to drum up support for the Texas Transportation Amendment, which proposes to take $1.4 billion annually from oil and gas tax revenues in the state’s rainy day fund and apply it to new highway and transportation construction and maintenance. The initiative will go before Texas voters November 4.
Sponsored by Case Construction Equipment, the Dire States program launched in 2013 when McNichols, a former roadbuilder, spent a year driving around the country in a rickety 1949 Hudson to help draw attention to the condition of our country’s roads and bridges. The Hudson was chosen as the vehicle for the tour because it’s “as old, rusty and energy defunct as much of America’s infrastructure,” said McNichol.
Case also partnered with ASCO Equipment, a construction equipment dealer with 20 locations throughout Texas, for the tour. “There is a need for investment and with that will come thousands of skilled jobs and increased investment in everything from manufacturing to aggregate production,” said Kirby Carpenter, strategic account manager, ASCO Equipment. “Infrastructure investment is a proven economy builder and this amendment is a much needed shot in the arm for infrastructure investment in Texas,” he says.
The Dire States three-day tour of Texas included stops in Austin, Brownwood, Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo, Childress and Wichita Falls. For more information on future events visit DireStates.com.
Texas is in the difficult position of having one of the country’s best business climates, but paradoxically, the nation’s most underfunded road building and maintenance programs. It needs $4.6 billion annually just to keep up.
Yet voters have consistently pushed back against toll road initiatives and a recently opened private toll road between San Antonio and Austin is seeing scarce traffic due to its high toll costs and may declare bankruptcy. Additionally, efforts by the state government to creatively finance toll road projects with pension funds have come under scathing attack in the press.
“Like much of the country, Texas has underinvested in infrastructure,” says Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president, Texas Good Roads. “The Texas Transportation Amendment will serve as a good first step in providing new methods of investment, but it’s just that, a first step.”