The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) hosted a planning meeting on August 1 to discuss with stakeholders the process of qualifying and applying for $225 million in transportation funds appropriated by the 83rd Texas Legislature to aid counties impacted by increased oil and gas production. Representatives from the Texas Association of Counties, Conference of Urban Counties and County Judges and Commissioners Association participated in the discussion and commented on the material presented by TxDOT. This material included:
The 83rd Texas Legislature passed SB 1747 by Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) which grants TxDOT the authority to develop policies and procedures to administer a grant program to counties for transportation infrastructure projects located in areas of the state affected by increased oil and gas production. The bill creates a formula for grant distribution during a fiscal year among counties that designate a county energy transportation reinvestment zone (TRZ). The formula appropriates 20 percent to counties based on weight tolerance permits issued in the preceding fiscal year, 20 percent according to oil and gas production taxes in the preceding fiscal year, 50 percent determined by well completions in the preceding fiscal year, and 10 percent according to the volume of oil and gas waste injected in the preceding fiscal year.
The bill allows a county to designate an area affected by oil and gas exploration and production as a county energy transportation reinvestment zone. It includes requirements regarding an advisory board and for holding a public hearing on the creation of the zone, on its benefits to the county and to property in the proposed zone. It establishes an ad valorem tax increment account for the zone funded by taxes collected on property in a zone to be used for transportation projects located in the zone, and, in the alternative, allows a county to create a road utility district, with the same boundaries as the zone, which may issue bonds. The bill is effective Sept. 1, 2013.
Included in the TxDOT information packet is a draft timeline (follow link to Legislation page of http://www.roadsfortexasenergy.com) for the rollout of the program which allows for them to begin accepting applications in January of 2014. Important comments were made by the commission about the program, including specifying that any expenditure made before Sept. 1, 2013, will not qualify as a reimbursable expense, and that counties do not need to hire consultants to access the money. In the near future, TxDOT will release a list of counties that qualify for funds and for how much based on the qualifications laid out in the bill.
TxDOT staff will submit rules for proposal to the Texas Transportation Commission at the monthly commission meeting, Aug. 29, 2013. If proposed by the commission, the rules will be published in the Texas Register for public comments for 30 days. Counties must establish a TRZ in order for counties to be eligible for funding under the grant program. TxDOT does not have a formal role in the establishment or operation of a TRZ. TxDOT will, however, provide an electronic guide to informally assist counties with the basic concepts. The guide will be posted on this website. To see this and more information from TxDOT go to http://www.roadsfortexasenergy.com.
County representatives will continue to work with TxDOT and will report back as decisions are made on the details of the program. For more information contact Rick Thompson at (800) 456-5974 or .