January 12, 2001
The Honorable Rick Perry
The Honorable William R. Ratliff
The Honorable James E. “Pete” Laney
Members of the 77th Texas Legislature
I am pleased to present Paving the Way: A Review of the Texas Department of Transportation. The reforms I outline in this report will provide Texans an additional $1.1 billion over the next two years for new road construction and maintenance.
Though people are frustrated with growing traffic congestion, Texans overwhelmingly oppose a tax increase to finance new road construction. I agree, and I urge you to adopt the recommendations contained in this report. My recommendations would provide more money than what some see as the only way to build new roads—a 5-cent a gallon increase in the gasoline tax.
This comprehensive performance review finds TxDOT at a crossroads where it must abandon its outdated business-as-usual approach to meet the challenges of this new century. It must adapt to an economy powered by services and high technology and modern patterns of business and personal transportation.
It must become more efficient, taxpayer-sensitive, innovative and, most importantly, focused on its core function—driving every possible transportation dollar directly into road construction.
Simply put, Texans are finding it difficult getting from here to there. TxDOT too often defends its antiquated practices and thinking instead of building the roads its customers are demanding.
Key changes in TxDOT must be made, and made now. The agency must be forced to think and work outside the box.
I took very seriously the charge of the 76th Legislature to review TxDOT with a particular emphasis on the agency’s contracting practices, geographical distribution of construction and maintenance projects, project financing with both state and federal funds, and general business practices.
In short, this report outlines a compelling need for the use of innovative financing techniques such as Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEEs), using the Internet to better serve people when they interact with the agency, consolidating offices, reducing the bureaucracy, and managing money and assets better.
TxDOT’s own current “standard of fairness” states that it should get back 95 cents of every dollar Texas sends to Washington. Therefore, it should enthusiastically embrace the recommendation that regions in Texas get back minimally 90 cents of every dollar sent to Austin.
TxDOT must become more broad-minded and open. That can only be accomplished with a change at the top, which requires additional representation from all across the state on the Texas Transportation Commission.
What I found at TxDOT is troubling. Texans have in the past prided themselves on a fine highway system. That system of highways and byways is in jeopardy and can only be maintained as a national example of how things can be done with inclusive, forward-looking new thinking and new direction.
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts