West Texans Fight for Safer Roads 6/26/12
CBS 7 Reporter
June 26, 2012
Midland, TX - Texas roads are falling apart as the oil industry brings heavy traffic.
That’s why TX-DOT created a task force to stay on top of the problem. The "Energy Sector" task force is supposed to identify the areas that need improvement the most. They’re hosting a series of meetings and community hearings but none in West Texas so far. In fact, West Texas was not even represented on the task force until a CBS 7 story questioned the lack of attention on the Permian Basin. The task force will meet Monday in Cleburne, near Ft. Worth. There will be 3 representatives from West Texas there.
Right now there are no road improvement projects planned in the Permian Basin and now that West Texas has a voice, local representatives say they have a lot to prove.
"Were not used to having roads that are at capacity it's just not something we've dealt with in the past so it brings a whole different set of challenges," explains James Beauchamp with the Midland Odessa Transportation Alliance.
In fact, Midland and Ector Counties give roughly $85 million dollars to the state in taxes, specifically for road projects..
"At some point, for all the money we invest in the state, the states going to have to reciprocate and invest a little bit of that money back here in the basin," claims Beauchamp.
But instead all of the initial funding from TX-DOT went elsewhere.
"Unfortunately we learned later that not only had they not included anyone from the Permian Basin on that original task force,” says Beauchamp. “They turned around and sent all of the $40 million they allocated initially to either north and south Texas."
That’s why Beauchamp fought for a spot on the Energy Sector Task Force so he could advocate for the area.
"We can really make that case to them first and foremost that we are relevant, this is the epicenter of energy production on the state," he says.
It’s something Beauchamp believes should be common knowledge
"Something you feel silly having to talk about, that we are the dominant region in this state. People really don't understand where these reserves come from," he claims.
But TX-DOT says The Permian Basin isn't the only area in Texas feeling negative impacts from the boom. And their initial funding distribution was based on population size and demand.
"This is a state wide problem. Energy production is going on practically in every corner; every area of the state so the impact you are feeling locally is being felt in other areas around the state as well. It is something we are looking at and it will not be overlooked for your area," explains Mark Cross with TX-DOT.
Still, West Texas Task Force Representatives believe The Permian Basin should have been the number one priority when it comes to funding for safer roads.
"We’ve been in they oil and gas business a long time and were going to be in they oil and gas business for a long time," Beauchamp says.
West Texas Task Force members say they are pushing for a task force meeting in West Texas so that the group can experience the traffic for themselves and more local people can voice their opinions. TX-DOT says they will eventually be releasing a list of future meeting locations but it was unavailable by news time.
The task force will meet on Monday, July 2nd from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. An open house will be held for the public from 4-6 pm at the Cleburne Conference Center.
There will be 3 people representing West Texas: James Beauchamp with MOTRAN, Midland County commissioner Robin Donnelley and Andrews County Judge Richard Dolgener.