History of LWVTX Action on Transportation

History of LWVTX Action on Transportation

2006: The League opposed the proposed route for the Trans-Texas Corridor because local and regional planning groups had concerns about economic and environmental effects which were not addressed, their recommendations were not included in the route selection, and major population centers were not connected in a seamless manner.

2007: The LWV-TX opposed HB1892 (Smith) a moratorium bill on Trans-Texas Corridor (includes many other toll roads). Highways 1604 and 281 were not included in this moratorium. Some north Texas roads which had been approved were not in the moratorium. The bill passed by the legislature was vetoed by the governor.

2013: During the last legislative session, transportation bills were followed but few were passed. The major legislation involved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow funds from the Rainy Day Fund to be utilized for infrastructure repair and expansion. The amendment legislation passed but did not appear on the same ballot as the water amendment in November 2013. The Texas Department of Transportation was challenged to utilize funds in as efficient way as possible, which resulted in gravel on some rural roads instead of paving. Effects on roads from oil/gas drilling trucks were a concern. There has been much uproar since then and projects have been redirected. Both House and Senate committees were concerned with congestion + e.g., on I35 W and I35 E + but with limited funds could come up with no funding solution.

Transportation will be a high priority in the coming legislature. High speed rail from Houston to the D/FW metroplex, plus the Mexico to Oklahoma City corridor rail, are being addressed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Interim charges include: passenger and freight rail are to be evaluated through a review of the Rail Division of TxDOT, and the port system will be evaluated through a review of the Maritime Division of TxDOT. There was a constitutional amendment on funding that will be on the ballot in November 2014 for use for road infrastructure and improvement. Our current positions enable us to address the proposed legislation in a favorable fashion.

2017 Transportation policy bills did not get very far in the 85th Legislature. High-speed rail bills, toll road bills, red light camera bills, and other bills to address important transportation issues in the state went eight unheard or did not make it far in the process. Only 10 transportation bills that the League followed this session were sent to the governor.

One of the transportation policy bills that was signed into law is a statewide ban on texting while driving. HB 62 has exemptions for using global positioning system (GPS) and emergency messages while driving and for operating devices that play music. But the reading and sending of messages via text, email, messaging applications, and other text-based means is prohibited unless the vehicle is stopped. Also significant was the passage of SB 30, which requires the inclusion of education for drivers on peace officer interactions. This is following a number of police shootings at traffic stops across the country that has come to national attention. A bill that would have permitted the advertisement of voter registration deadlines and voting days on the Texas Department of Transportation message boards along interstate highways did not get a hearing. This was disappointing as the League was prepared to support the bill.

HB 100 was signed into law. And the state will take over the regulation of ridesharing companies while prohibiting local governments from doing so. This is of note to the City of Austin, which banned companies Uber and Lyft from operating in the city last year after the companies did not comply with local regulations. The companies have been operating elsewhere in Texas. SB 312, the bill to continue the Texas Department of Transportation, was signed by the governor. The Texas Department of Transportation was under sunset review this session and was noted as being unprepared to the challenges of the future.

The bills addressing the high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston did not get very far this session, meaning that for the next 2 years the private company that owns the project has no special limitations to contend with. An overwhelming number of bills did not receive a hearing or were left pending in committee. And most bills did not pass from one house to the other. Bills banning or limiting toll roads also did not move very far (not all toll road have been financially successful). The reverse in position on toll roads from approximately 10 years ago is a policy issue that can have significant impact on many urban commuters in Texas as the state begins to grapple with massive population growth over the next few years.

2019. The 86 th Legislature saw the passage of few transportation bills, and nearly half of the bills
either established memorial highways or created new specialty license plates. Among the new plates that are now available to passenger vehicle owners are Register to Vote specialty license plates (HB 1330), a bill successfully supported by the League! 

Toll Roads: The troubled finances of some toll entities and problems with both toll road
construction and toll gate sensors have contributed to less enthusiastic support for toll roads from
many legislators. HB 803 was signed into law and requires greater financial transparency from toll
road entities, which have been criticized for not making their information accessible to the public.

Driver Responsibility program: HB 2048 repealed the controversial Driver Responsibility
program. Per the Texas Department of Public Safety website: 
“The Driver Responsibility Program establishes a system that authorizes the Texas
Department of Public Safety (DPS) to assess surcharges to an individual based on certain
traffic offenses that have occurred on or after September 1, 2003. Individuals are notified by
mail each time a surcharge is added to their driver record. Surcharges are in addition to
other fees and do not replace a suspension, revocation, denial, disqualification or cancellation
resulting from the same conviction.”
The program had been criticized for contributing to the disproportionate incarceration of low-income individuals, who were unable to pay the charges and subsequently had their driver’s license
suspended or were jailed after failing to pay the surcharges after 105 days. Critics of the program
further asserted that the surcharges trapped people in a cycle of debt. The evidence presented to
lawmakers was enough to generate bipartisan support for the passage of HB 2048, which went into
effect on September 1, 2019.

Red light cameras: After several unsuccessful attempts in prior Legislative sessions to ban red
light cameras, HB 1631 banned red light cameras across Texas. Local law enforcement may no
longer use photo enforcement to issue traffic fines and citations.

High Speed Rail: Although high-speed rail has been a controversial issue for landowners and
elected official along the proposed Dallas – Houston route, none of the bills regarding the privately
owned and operated passenger rail line were passed, leaving another two years without legislative
resolution for the issues of rail elevation, coordination with county road cutoffs and re-routes, land
acquisition, or multi-modal compatibility, among others.

Other issues: Many cities in Texas have received an influx of electric scooters, which have had
both positive and negative responses. SB 549, which would have regulated electric scooters, failed
to pass out of the House committee. HB 417, relating to economic impact reviews conducted by the
Texas Transportation Commission, would have required analysis and public comment on
transportation project impacts to businesses, but did not receive a hearing. HB 2306, relating to a
study regarding the public health considerations of transportation planning, was left pending in the
House Administration committee.