The surge of drilling in Texas has brought thousands of jobs for Texans, but it might come at the cost of public roads, officials said.
The Texas Department of Transportation has told industry and local officials that it could cost more than $2 billion to fix roads damaged by the increased drilling activity, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Additional money may be necessary to maintain interstate and state highways that have been pounded by large trucks used by the energy industry, the newspaper reported.
“There’s not a dedicated revenue source,” John Barton, the department’s deputy executive director, told the Star-Telegram. “We need $2 billion, and the shortfall is $2 billion.”
The recent surge in drilling in parts of Texas has caused county officials to spend an increasing amount of money fixing damaged roads used by the industry. However, those costs are quickly out stripping the funding for projects.
Some Texas counties are exploring agreements with companies, such as Chesapeake Energy, that would cover the costs of damaged roads. Officials say some of the larger companies are open to the idea, but smaller contractors aren’t so keen on the idea.
Johnson County, which is situated just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth region, has seen a boom in drilling by a dismal decline of its roads over the past six years.
According to the Star-Telegram, 90 percent of the roads were in good condition in precinct one of the county. Now, less than 60 percent are up to that standard, the newspaper reported.
Road surfaces near shale plays across Texas are slowly deteriorating under the weight of the heavy equipment, because many of those roadways were never designed to carry drillings rigs or tankers full of oil or water.
As a result, they are creating dangerous conditions for drivers, leading to more crashes.
La Salle County Judge Joel Rodriguez Jr. said the poor road conditions have a lot to do with increases in crashes, including fatal wrecks, in the county.
As the drilling boom continues, counties are exploring ways to fund future road repairs and also looking to the Texas legislature to find a solution.
But officials said the biggest question likely will be who’s on the hook for the repairs and for how much?
“‘Who should pay for it?’ That’s the kind of questions we in the industry are asking ourselves,” Deb Hastings, executive vice president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, told the Star-Telegram. “We do pay billions in taxes already. How that’s funneled to local governments, that’s the question.”