Texas DOT uses innovative financing to build during lean times

A $2.5 billion expressway project in Forth Worth, Texas, will cost the state Department of Transportation just $573 million – less than one-fourth of the total cost. The reason: public/private partnerships.

“Our state has been a leader in this area,” Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz recently told the Association of American Safety and Highway Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Transportation TV. “These partnerships between states and a private companies are allowing TxDOT to build several major projects that otherwise would not be built. By moving these projects forward, we can eliminate traffic congestion, give our citizens shorter commutes, and create jobs.”

Saenz discusses public/private partnerships and other innovative financing tools in a new Two Minute State DOT Update video on Transportation TV. He says “the economic downturn has dramatically reduced state tax revenues and forced TxDOT to work even harder to find ways to pay for critical transportation projects.”

According to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states are facing combined budget gaps midway through their 2011 fiscal year totaling $26.7 billion, and a December survey of states by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers finds that slow revenue growth, increased spending demands, and the loss of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds “will create a cliff in fiscal 2012 and contribute to state fiscal strains.”

“There’s no question that state departments of transportation must explore every funding option available to them,” said Jack Basso, director of program finance and management at the AASHTO. “User fees remain the backbone of support for transportation funding. However the kind of innovative financing tools being applied in Texas and other states go a long way toward ensuring that states have the ability to meet their transportation goals.”