Written by Phil Cerroni
The costs associated with our area’s spreading highway infrastructure are mounting, and some of the proposed solutions could threaten fiscal autonomy across North Central Texas. Those were the concerns shared at the 16th Annual Transportation and Infrastructure Summit held from Aug. 6-9 at the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas.
Both infrastructure professionals and private individuals from around Texas voiced concerns about any solution that relies on subsidies either from other states or from the Federal government. This was preeminently clear during the discussions surrounding the proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.
As Gordon Dickson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram moderated, one member of the panel of transportation writers summarized those concerns: “I guess the overriding question from a…Tea Party standpoint (is), is it a free market things? Does it pay for itself? And to what extent (will a) true high-speed rail, inter-city bullet train need some kind of infusion of public dollars?” The speaker cited the example of Southwest Airlines, questioning their contention that their fares and landing fees pay for the runways they use without relying on infrastructure subsidies, as a rail line or a highway does.
But that contention is only partially true, as audience members were quick to point out.
“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) isn’t free. The airport infrastructure isn’t free, and I think the public needs to be aware whenever they consider cost, they have to consider the true cost and the true value, and the fact that the highways are not profitable,” said a man in the audience. “Maintaining freeways is not profitable.