Big money is pouring into Texas a year after Congress passed a landmark infrastructure measure. According to the White House, $13.9 billion in funding for the Lone Star State had been announced as of November, including for 310 specific projects. The sum is only surpassed by California’s $16.2 billion.
With $10.8 billion, Texas will receive the largest share for roads, bridges, and other transportation improvements. In Dallas-Fort Worth, several highway projects are undergoing construction, including those along Interstate 635 and close to Loop 12. Chandra Bhat, a professor of transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, called it “a beautiful infusion.”
These are beneficial investments for an infrastructure that has long been in poor condition. Texas has received funding in a variety of other areas, including $645 million for public transportation, $246 million for sustainable energy and energy efficiency, and $147 million to develop an infrastructure of charging stations for electric vehicles.
Bhat praised the increased spending on cutting-edge technology, including the $35 million set aside for a brand-new zero-carbon power plant at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The anticipated $158 million cost of the facility will not be entirely covered by the grant, but further funding may be forthcoming soon. The school’s Center for Transportation Research director, Bhat, claimed that “all these technological investments are taking us in the right route.”
top states for investing in infrastructure
It’s unclear how much funding has previously been approved and how much is still pending approval at various levels. It’s difficult to predict when the funding will arrive and the project will be completed because it’s spread across so many different programs and organizations, according to Joseph Kane, a fellow at Brookings Metro, a Washington-based think tank that has set up an infrastructure hub to track the awards.
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According to him, the agency, program, and recipient all influence how the money is spent. Highway and road projects are setting the standard because they receive the majority of financing for such improvements. Many of these programs simply have a zero or two added to the end of their budgets, according to Kane.
According to Travis Attanasio, president of the Texas chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the additional government cash is advancing several projects in Texas, which is a positive sign for the state’s preparation.
In the first year following the passage of the infrastructure bill, the state had more than 1,200 projects that were either “shovel-ready” or “shovel-worthy,” he added. Attanasio, a senior civil engineer at Burleson, said of the projects, “They got out quite rapidly, and I know a lot of additional projects are being placed out there right now.”
Not just for engineering companies and construction crews, the labor shortage continues to be a significant concern. He claimed that finding building inspectors is particularly challenging and that government organizations seeking to win competitive projects require a variety of skills, from grant writers to accountants.
Where Texas’s money is going
You might need to wait for supplies even if you have the people. According to Attanasio, Burleson must wait nine months before receiving a signal light as part of a road renovation. While most infrastructure money will come from usual formula funding, the law provides slightly over $200 billion for competitive grants.
One has already been obtained by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, in partnership with Dallas and DART: a $25 million grant to enhance the cycling and pedestrian pathways surrounding numerous Dallas transit stations.
Within a half-mile of numerous DART light rail stations, including 8th & Corinth, Morrell, Illinois, and Kiest, the project calls for the construction of almost 30 miles of sidewalk. Twelve bus shelters along DART’s Bus Route 217 will be modernized with digital signs and safety features, and the Cedar Crest Trail will be extended by about 1.5 miles.
According to Kevin Kokes, program manager for sustainable development for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the project will likely cost $43.75 million in total, with federal infrastructure grants paying roughly 57% of that amount. According to him, DART will provide around $3 million and Dallas $5.75 million. However, the government funds have not yet been received.
Kokes stated, “We’re still working on the arrangement. “Once the contract is signed, they’ll give us the go-ahead.” Early 2023 is when he anticipates the work to start. Improvements would benefit a region in southern Dallas where 17% of residents lack access to a personal automobile.
Kokes stated, “We’re serving mostly underprivileged communities that are transit dependent.” That’s one reason why we believed this application would be really strong. He is preparing more grant applications that must be submitted by the end of February for consideration in the upcoming financing round.
New construction in Dallas-Fort Worth
A plan to utilize sensors to make bridges “smarter” is being developed by Nur Yazdani, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. The sensors might monitor changes in traffic, weight, and durability as well as the effects of harsh weather. To assist in identifying trends, artificial intelligence will be used.
He predicted that the many components of the infrastructure law will take some time to implement. We must exercise patience and acknowledge the size of the debt, Yazdani remarked. Additionally, planning organizations and cities in Austin, Houston, and other places are competing for the same funding source.
The infrastructure bill, he claimed, has already affected some significant projects in Dallas-Fort Worth, including those near Interstate 820. “Without that infrastructure infusion, those particular projects would be pushed back in time,” he said. He has been collaborating with state highway officials. While many normal improvements are supported by federal infrastructure money, Bhat of UT-Austin is primarily interested in ground-breaking initiatives.
The METRO transit system in Houston received a $21.6 million grant to replace its deteriorating fleet of diesel buses with electric buses and charging stations. That will help certain low-income areas with their air quality, but Bhat calls that “low-hanging fruit.” The demand-response operations and maintenance facility will include a pickup service and community space for farmers’ markets and food pantries.
CapMetro, Austin’s transit operator, received $20 million to create the facility. Bhat stated, “I’m looking for more investments along those lines. We cannot develop our way out of traffic congestion, so we must increase our public transportation system.