Skip to main content

Texas poised to spend $2.5 billion on urban highway projects

As budget writers and lawmakers eye billions in voter-approved highway money for other matters, transportation officials are touting high-profile projects that will benefit from those funds.

Cars back up during afternoon weekday traffic on southbound Interstate 45 in Houston north of downtown.

Clarification appended.

Weeks after two state senators questioned how billions in voter-approved highway money could be clawed back and spent on other state needs, Texas transportation officials on Wednesday touted a litany of projects they plan to build with the funds. 

The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the state transportation department, is set to vote this month on its 10-year plan that lays out its long-term strategy for upcoming road projects. Included in that is a $2.5 billion, four-year plan specifically aimed at unclogging choke points in urban areas.

But some of that $2.5 billion in spending will only happen if the Texas Department of Transportation receives all of the funds that Texans in 2015 agreed to dedicate to public roadways and bridges. Proposition 7 was supported by 83 percent of voters and changed the state Constitution to require some general sales tax revenue as well as some revenue from taxes levied specifically on car sales and rentals be routed to the State Highway Fund.. The change is expected to garner $5 billion for TxDOT in the next two years, some of which would go to the department's latest urban congestion initiative.

“My fellow commissioners and I view this as a Texas voter mandate,” said transportation commissioner Bruce Bugg, who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Lawmakers can reduce the transfer to the highway fund by up to 50 percent through a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. No one has publicly backed such a move, but key budget writers have privately discussed the option. And at a Senate Finance Committee hearing last month, two state senators — Democrat Kirk Watson of Austin and Republican Charles Schwertner of Georgetown — asked Legislative Budget Board staffers about how such a money transfer might work.

State lawmakers this year have far less money at their discretion when crafting the next two-year budget. Tax cuts in 2015 reduced available state revenues by about $4 billion. And the voter-approved transfer of funds to the highway fund is set to leave even fewer dollars available to put toward areas such as health care and education.

As TxDOT has been updating its long-range plans, the agency has assumed it will receive all of the Prop 7 money, Bugg said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

“We are anticipating where these funding streams are going to be coming from and how to place these funding streams on projects that are so desperately needed in the five major metropolitan areas,” he said.

Bugg added that TxDOT needs to keep pace with expected population growth, particularly in the state’s urban areas. He pointed to Abbott’s proposed budget, which calls for directing all of the Prop 7 funds to TxDOT as voters intended.

Here's a look at the $2.5 billion in urban congestion projects that TxDOT plans to tackle if the transportation commission approves the agency's long-term transportation plan later this month:

Austin area

Location: Interstate 35 from Rundberg Lane to U.S. Highway 183

Project: Implement improvements to connections, pavement and bicycle and pedestrian areas

Cost: $133.3 million


Location: Interstate 35 from south of Holly Street to north of Oltorf

Project: Implement improvements to ramps, pavement, bicycle and pedestrian areas and frontage road intersections

Cost: $162.3 million


Location: U.S. Highway 183 from State Highway 45 to State Highway Loop 1

Project: Build two general purpose lanes

Cost: $120 million


Dallas area

Location: LBJ Freeway from Miller Road to Interstate 30

Project: Add HOV/managed lanes, rebuild frontage roads, improve LBJ/Interstate 30 interchange

Cost: $437.7 million


Fort Worth area

Location: State Highway 121 from State Highway 114 to Dallas County line

Project: Rebuild LBJ Freeway and FM 2499 interchanges

Cost: $370 million


Houston area

Location: Interstate 610 from west of Cambridge to west of Scott Street

Project: Construct overpass at Cambridge Street, Alemda Road and Union Pacific Railroad

Cost: $75 million


Location: Interstate 69 from Interstate 45 to State Highway 288

Project: Rebuild and widen to 12 lanes and rebuild interchange with State Highway 288

Cost: $173.5 million


Location: Interstate 69 from State Highway 288 to Spur 527

Project: Rebuild to 10 main lanes

Cost: $192 million


Location: Interstate 69 at McGowen, Tuam and Elgin

Project: Construct three gateway bridges

Cost: $55.8 million


Location: Interstate 45 at Interstate 69 South

Project: Rebuild interchange, including I-45 and I-69 main lanes

Cost: $501.7 million


San Antonio Area

Location: Interstate 10 from Interstate 410 to Loop 1604

Project: Expand from four to six lanes

Cost: $60 million


Location: State Loop 1604 from Interstate 35 to FM 78

Project: Expand to four-lane expressway

Cost: $40 million


Location: U.S. Highway 281 from north of Stone Oak to Bexar-Comal county line

Project: Expand to four main lanes and two carpool lanes with frontage roads

Cost: $91 million


Location: Interstate 410 from FM 3487-Culbera to U.S. Highway 90

Project: Add two lanes and reconstruct interchange with State Highway 151

Cost: $100 million


Location: Interstate 410 at Interstate 10-E

Project: Construct direct connectors

Cost: $25 million

Clarification: This story has been updated to more fully describe the changes Proposition 7 made to the Texas Constitution.

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Support independent Texas news

Become a member. Join today.

Donate now

Explore related story topics

Politics State government Transportation 85th Legislative Session Budget Texas Department Of Transportation Texas Legislature