Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson supports a TxDOT plan to transfer some state-maintained roads over to the city.
"There are some very good examples," Mayor Robertson said. "4th Street going through the center of Lubbock is not a state highway anymore. That's local traffic being carried through there."
It is voluntary so the city can negotiate exactly what roads they want to take over. Options include 4th Street, 19th Street, south Slide Road and Avenue Q.
"Our average maintenance is going to be in the $1 million to $1.5 million range a year, but I don't think we'll really see any of that for 10 or 15 years down the road," he said. "They're going to give us some funds to help pay for the initial maintenance of these roads, so I think we're really going to get to the point where we'll be able to negotiate a deal that is fair to the citizens and is going to be a good deal for Lubbock."
Some cities in Texas have referred to the plan as double taxation, but Mayor Robertson says that's not the case.
"Taxpayers are paying for these roads already. We're paying for it through the fuel tax to the state. Now the state has a choice, either increase fuel tax revenue or hand some of these off to the cities," Robertson said. "The good news is we're going to be able to decide where curb cuts go. We're going to be able to decide speed limits. We're not going to be bound by a lot of state laws that we have been before."
Bennett Sandlin is the executive director for the Texas Municipal League. At first, mayors around the state contacted him to voice their disapproval with TxDOT's proposal. But once they found out it was voluntary, that all changed.
"It's going to be a voluntary program and if the city doesn't want to take on a state highway it doesn't have to, so that can't possibly be a bad thing," Sandlin said. "Our smaller towns might want to put banners over the road or hold a festival, and those are difficult to do when it's a state highway. You've got to get permission. Other cities want control of it because they want curb cuts and lane modifications as well as signal modifications and don't want to have to get TxDOT permission."
TxDOT originally proposed the plan to save the state $165 million a year. Sandlin says TxDOT has $4 billion in maintenance needs but are only receiving $1 billion from the legislature and are trying to cut any costs they can, but he's not sure how much this will actually save.
"I would say it will raise enough to make a dent. The original roads that were planned for turnback were just a fraction of state highways within cities, so if a few cities do this, we might get to a point where TxDOT feels some relief. I don't know if it will be the full $165 million."
Lubbock City Council still has to approve any plan, and it won't take effect for another five to 10 years.
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