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TxDOT Giving Up Controversial Unpaved Road Conversion Plan

TxDOT Giving Up Controversial Unpaved Road Conversion Plan

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has abandoned a controversial plan to convert paved roads to unpaved roads along the highway routes that lead to some of the state’s top oil producing areas.

When this idea was first proposed, TxDOT had claimed that the decision was driven by budget restraints, and that the higher levels of traffic from trucks and heavy machinery had significantly increased maintenance costs. The suggestion to stop maintaining the paving on these roads was quickly met with loud public outcry from the energy sector and local government officials and residents in the South and West Texas communities that would be affected, as well as fiscal watchdog groups that pointed out other areas of TxDOT spending that should be cut before neglecting to maintain paving on crucial road networks, such as a $50 million request to study hypothetical future transportation technologies like jetpacks, hovercars, personal passenger drones, “hyperloops,” etc.

TxDOT officially announced they would no longer pursue converting these roads to unpaved roads in a letter Friday to the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), in which they also requested access to an additional $402 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2015. Half of the funds, according to TxDOT, would go to safety projects across Texas and the other half to roadways affected by the exponential growth of the state’s energy sector.

In a press release late Friday, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst praised TxDOT’s decision, and stated his support for the LBB to release the funds they had requested. The soundness and quality of our transportation infrastructure has a direct bearing on our state’s economy and quality of life, so I applaud TxDOT’s commitment to pursue the highest standards of quality and safety,” he said. “I am proud to have led the charge to end the policy of high-end unpaved road conversions in the Eagle Ford Shale region and beyond as a way to keep Texas highly competitive and livable.”

“Roads are the circulatory system of our state, carrying people to work, home and church as well as freight between businesses and customers,” concluded Dewhurst. “Texas families and businesses in both rural and urban areas deserve a comprehensive first rate transportation system and they’ll get it.”

Midland City Councilman J.Ross Lacy called TxDOT’s move a “common sense decision,” telling Breitbart Texas that it actually costs more to tear up asphalt roads and replace them with gravel than it does to fill in potholes and other ongoing maintenance. “I applaud TxDOT on abandoning a program that was counterproductive in furthering the economic growth our great state is experiencing due to the oil and gas industry,” said Lacy. “Texas has an obligation to put the appropriate infrastructure in place to continue to drive our economy, [and] they need to reinvest tax dollars in the counties that are generating the revenue.”

Breitbart Texas was unable to get a comment from TxDOT officials before the office closed for the weekend, but will provide updates to this story as needed.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.

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