AUSTIN — State transportation officials are backing off an effort to shift the burden for maintaining urban highways to local governments in a bid to save upward of $165 million.
The Texas Transportation Commission heard testimony Thursday on a plan to have cities and counties take over the repair burden for nearly 1,900 miles of urban highways in 59 cities. But the push by the Texas Department of Transportation has drawn heavy criticism from municipal and county leaders who object to absorbing the added costs of maintenance.
“This simply is a solution that the city of Fort Worth cannot afford,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, according to a report by the Austin American-Statesman.
TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson is proposing a voluntary program in which local governments can take responsibility for roadways that are designated as state highways.
In return the state would compensate them for a year’s worth of maintenance.
TxDOT, meanwhile, is standing by its intention to convert 83 miles of state highways in some oil-field areas from asphalt to gravel.
The agency says it will allow a two-month review period to see if counties step forward to pay for maintaining the paved roads.
Transportation officials pushed the changes in part because lawmakers have long shorted the department’s budget for maintaining roads, requiring the agency to find millions in savings.