H-GAC Technical Advisory Committee
March 18, 2009, 9:30 am
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Status Update on Implementation of the 2008-2011 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Stimulus Funding
Pat Waskowiak of H-GAC noted that TIP projects faced funding shortfalls during 2008. She noted that 43 percent of projects constituting 35 percent of funding advanced, while 57 percent of projects and 65 percent of funding was delayed. Of $1.7 billion in projects, only $600 million was obligated.
Fiscal Year 2008 TIP Summary (pdf, 3.1 mb)
Only 18 percent of local funding sources advanced, although Waskowiak said that the figures were misleading because local funding information is not as reliable as state and federal funding. Local funding also includes transit spending, but she said that transit agencies have three years to spend the money, so despite appearances there is no substantial transit shortfall.
Waskowiak said the biggest problem was state and federal funding, noting that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced a funding shortfall in the middle of 2008 and stopped letting contracts at that point in the year. She said that since many local entities hope to leverage projects, state shortfalls can affect local funding sources and prevent construction.
As a result of recent funding shortfalls, she said there were many backlogged projects in the TIP. Of the four large stimulus projects, three had been in the TIP since 2005. The only one not included was Segment E of the Grand Parkway, which is in the 2008-2011 TIP. She said Segment E was included to get the project started sooner rather than later.
Map and list of local stimulus projects (pdf, 1.8 mb)
Alan Clark of H-GAC said that the current TIP overestimated toll road projects, and that subsequent versions would include much more realistic expectations. He encouraged local entities to pursue right-of-way and environmental clearances if they hope to receive federal money, noting that stimulus funds caught many entities off guard and allowed only projects that were “shovel ready.” He said there had been some talk of a second or even a third stimulus plan.
Status Update on the City of Houston Mobility Planning – Phase I
Raymond Chong of the City of Houston discussed Phase I of the City of Houston Mobility Plan, which, according to a handout in the agenda packet, “will integrate planning and development activities with major thoroughfare and roadway improvements.”
According to the executive summary, “All funded transportation projects in H-GAC’s 2035 Regional Transportation Plan along with METRO Solutions were included to determine future street capacity and connectivity.” The executive summary notes that these projections include 8,256 more street lane miles inside Houston and 14,705 more street lane miles in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, representing a 14 percent increase in total capacity over the next 26 years.
Chong said that in 2007, the base year, commuters traveled an average of 50 minutes roundtrip to reach their jobs, but by 2035 the figure is expected to increase to 175 minutes, or almost three hours every day, despite capacity increases. He noted that significant growth is expected in outlying areas, but that most new jobs will be created in the city’s core.
Chong said that the major traffic problems would be outside the 610 Loop, and that mobility inside that area would not be much of a problem. Right now, he said that 17 percent of all roads in Harris County receive an “F” for service level. By 2035, he said 44 percent of roads will receive an “F.”
A TAC member asked if the city included commuter rail in the study, and Chong replied that it did not because no commuter rail projects are currently funded. It did, however, include the 2012 light rail expansion. Chong stated that the model included all major thoroughfares and some collectors, but it did not examine smaller streets.
A TAC member said that Charlotte had completed a study showing how lack of connectivity affected emergency services and dramatically increased expenses. Another member asked if that study could be forwarded to all TAC members.