Infrastructure & Environment

Texas Works to Fix Roads Damaged by Energy Boom

State Department of Transportation has awarded the final contract for improvements on roads impacted by the energy sector.
December 23, 2013
Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

The Texas Department of Transportation issued the second of two construction contracts for work designed to improve roads damaged by heavy traffic in parts of the state undergoing an oil boom.

The latest $150 million contact, announced last week, is part of a $225 million package provided by the state legislature earlier this year to repair roads in parts of the state inundated by heavy trucks and increased traffic volumes due to an oil and gas boom.

"While increased energy exploration and production activities are yielding tremendous economic benefits for Texas, the unprecedented volumes of heavy traffic are contributing to crashes and fatalities," Phil Wilson, executive director of the transportation department, said in a statement. "We are pleased that our commission agreed to fund some of these safety-focused rehabilitation and repair projects."

The latest work, set to begin in the spring, will widen damaged roadways in the southern part of the state in and around the Eagle Ford Formation, home to huge oil and natural gas deposits that have caused a boom in population and traffic.

In September, the agency awarded a $75 million contract to allow repairs to roads impacted by the energy boom in and around the Permian Basin, the other massive oil play in the Lone Star State.

That funding represents just a fraction of what TxDOT has said is needed to improve the roads. The agency has estimated a $1 billion annual cost to restoring restore roadways impacted by the energy boom to "good" or "better" conditions.

Separately, the state legislature also gave TxDOT this year another $225 million as part of a grant program to provide funding to counties to improve their infrastructure. That program prioritize roads impacted by the energy industry.

Earlier this year, the agency drew controversy when it announced plans to convert more than 80 miles of paved roadway to gravel in parts of the state impacted by increased oil and gas production. TxDOT officials (who uses the term "high-end unpaved material" rather than gravel) says those roads will still be converted since there's not enough funding to re-pave them.

The money for the conversion to gravel comes from the agency's general maintenance budget.

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