For the past several weeks, TxDOT has been working on a repair project on the Coulter overpass, mostly working with the bridge joints and decks. However, while that had been going on, they found some pavement issues going both westbound and eastbound on the highway.
â??We had to do a couple of emergency repairs out there, put in a lot of tons of hot mix to repair all that,â?? said TxDOT representative Paul Braun. â??Theyâ??re potholes. A lot of moisture go into the cracks and the moisture gets down into the sub base and when it boils when it gets warm, it pops up the pavement and the pavement fails. With the traffic thatâ??s driving on it, you see these big open areas of pavement that have just failed.â??
TxDOT had to ask for money from Austin for the emergency repair project. Here in the Panhandle, monetary funds for infrastructure and transportation projects can be difficult to come by.
â??Funding for highways is always and issue and its become a bigger issue in the past 20 years. Our gas tax is kind of unique,â?? said State Representative, John Smithee (R) of Amarillo. â??Gas tax is based on a set amount of cents per gallon and as a result, as the price of gas goes up, the actual revenue from the gas tax doesnâ??t match.â??
Rep. Smithee went on to explain that it is a constant battle fighting for funding when most of it is sent to big, urban areas like Dallas, Houston or Austin.
â??More and more money goes for roads in those areas, which are very expensive to build and maintain, and the result is that our share in west Texas, particularly here in the Panhandle has gone done. So weâ??re always in a fight and in a struggle to try and preserve as much funding as we can for our roads in this part of the state,â?? said Rep. Smithee.
The Texas Good Roads & Transportation organization advocates for state and federal funding to be put into Texas highways and roads to match the growing population and need for safe highways. However, they say if the funding does not increase soon, or if the gas tax is not revisited, Texasâ?? highways will become outdated.
â??If there is not any movement forward, the amount of money that will remain that comes in from the motor fuel tax and the registration fees will only be enough to maintain the current road system,â?? said the organizations executive vice president, Lawrence Olsen.
State Representative Ken King(R) of District 88 said that Texas is adding thousands of new cars and infrastructure every year, but the gas tax has not been updated since the late 90â??s. He said he is not advocating for new taxes, but that there are 26 million Texans and those numbers are expected to double by 2050. He said there has to be a change to improve infrastructure at some point.