By Eva Ruth Moravec
San Antonio Express-News
The Texas House adopted the conference committee report for SB 1747 about 11 p.m. Sunday in a 133-10 vote. About an hour earlier, the measure was unanimously adopted by the Texas Senate. Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, said the bill now helps counties fund fixes to local roads both in the short term and long term.
Help could be on the way for oil-impacted Texas counties, if both the Texas House and Senate adopt a conference committee report that would give Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale counties up to $225 million to fix local roads.
Money for the counties would be funneled from the state’s budget – the House late Sunday approved the conference committee report for House Bill 1025, the budget bill – into the Texas Department of Transportation, which would administer a grant program, said Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio.
Uresti authored Senate Bill 1747, which would create a transportation infrastructure fund and allows counties in the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basis to reinvest tax dollars into road maintenance programs. Once counties set up the Transportation Reinvestment Zone, they could be eligible to apply for a grant from TxDOT and would have to pony up 10 to 20 percent of the grant from local coffers.
“Help is on the way for these counties,” Uresti said. “Working in a bipartisan fashion, the Legislature has recognized that county roads are the gateway to the oil patch and must be maintained for the state’s oil boom to continue. With this bill, we are saving the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Another $225 million has been designated for TxDOT to use to fix its own oil-impacted roads, but the state typically only funds state highways and farm-to-market roads.
“It’s never been done before where the state appropriates money for county roads,” Uresti said, and he added that the grant program would last for two years.
According to a news release, county roads used for drilling an oil and gas well sustains the traffic equal to 8 million passenger vehicles. “Some 5,400 wells have been permitted in the Eagle Ford Shale region alone, and it’s projected that 24,000 wells will be operating by 2022,” Uresti’s release states.