With a possible recession on the horizon, the Texas House and Senate Transportation chairmen have requested that TxDOT halt the adoption of revisions and updates to the Unified Transportation Plan (UTP).
The UTP authorizes projects for construction, development and planning and includes projects involving highways and projects selected for state funding in the areas of aviation, rail, state and coastal waterways and public transportation, the TxDOT website states.
A halt to the 2020 UPT revisions and updates at its April meeting would include the proposed expansion of I-35 in Austin, which RA News reported on last month.
The UTP affects Texans. It lists all the projects and programs that are planned to be constructed within the first ten years of the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan. Although UTP isn’t a guarantee that the projects will be built, it’s a critical guide for transportation projects across Texas. It is also a communication tool about these projects for the public to understand the projects that are ahead or happening.
In a letter requesting a pause, Chairman Robert Nichols of the Senate Transportation Committee and Terry Canales, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, wrote to the head of Transportation Commission, Bruce Bugg, about their concerns over “immense volatility in the global financial markets,” and that in just a couple weeks there has been a collapse in the oil market “and a threat of a potential recession.”
“Combined with limited public participation in normal government activities due to COVID-19, we are prompted to make this request,” Nichols and Canales wrote.
This week, crude oil has plunged its lowest level in 18 years, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Proposition 1 deposits to the State Highway Fund are directly related to the price of oil, and this volatility has contributed to annual deposits ranging from $440 million to $1.74 billion,” Nicholas and Canales wrote. “We believe it is in the interest of all Texans to postpone adoption until more financial certainty is available and the public is able to fully participate.”