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CAMPO says more money must come from local governments

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is facing challenges both in terms of getting funds and in terms of getting those funds out the door, Executive Director Joe Cantalupo told the group’s finance committee on Friday.


CAMPO’s job is to manage the long-term plans and short-term expenditures of federal transportation dollars in the Central Texas region. According to numbers prepared by CAMPO, a total of $18.7 billion will be needed between 2010 and 2035 to cover new and existing projects, with expectations that almost half of the money for $9.4 billion in new projects will come from local jurisdictions.


That means that over the next 25 years, local jurisdictions will have to put up $5.4 billion to cover the projects that are on the books. By comparison, the Federal Transit Administration will send the state $764 million and the 1 percent sales tax collected dedicated to transit will generate only $460 million.


Cantalupo offered the numbers with the caveat that revenues and projections do change. Finances are in a constant state of flux.


“If this holds true, then local governments are putting more and more money into transportation,” Cantalupo said. “That would be a significant shift.”


Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt noted that the $5.5 billion figure includes an annual $100 million contribution from Williamson County. Cantalupo said Williamson County had reviewed its numbers and did expect to provide that funding. If that comes through, the county will be providing almost half of new revenue.


Finance Chair Commissioner Cynthia Long noted that development had its price in the region. In many cases, the cost of right-of-way now is as much as construction.


CAMPO also is projecting problems with projects funded under Category 2 (metropolitan area corridor) and Category 7 (metropolitan mobility/rehabilitation) projects. According to funding projections from the TxDOT November board meeting, Austin will have no Category 2 funding capacity for FY 2011 or 2012.


According to numbers presented in November, TxDOT has no capacity to cover Category 2 projects for either FY 2011 or FY 2012 for any region in the state. That means the agency will have to go into new negotiations with the metropolitan planning organizations to determine how funding might be adjusted.


Cantalupo said CAMPO is working with TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to verify the status of its current Category 2 funds. What projects are ready and for what amount? What is the timing for the projects?


According to TxDOT, CAMPO should be entitled to $69 million a year in letting capacity, each year between 2013 and 2020. The goal would be to try to push more of that capacity to the front or to attempt to determine which projects in the pipeline are viable and can be constructed within the time frame.


Category 7 funds, which also are allocated based on TxDOT revenue projections, also have fallen short of projections. According to Cantalupo, six projects totaling $10.4 million are ready to go to construction and were in the pipeline based on TxDOT’s revenue forecast. Those projects went through the technical advisory process and were approved by the Transportation Policy Board.


Now TxDOT projects half that amount, $4.27 million, will be available. A total of 28 projects are on the books to go forward from FY 2011, totaling $119.2 million. Cantalupo estimated it would take 9 to 10 years to clear the books – under the current letting caps set out by TxDOT – before new projects could be accepted.


The sluggishness of the funding system ought to give jurisdictions pause before seeking mobility funding, Eckhardt said.


“Maybe, given the size and type of projects, they should just go through local funding. Sometimes it just takes too long,” Eckhardt said. “This could justify looking back in history, as the CAMPO board, and establishing some parameters on projects. Do we want to federalize a $3 million project?”


CAMPO continues to work through the issues with TxDOT: verifying letting caps and the status of current projects and reviewing project viability. Long said local jurisdictions also are looking at project consolidations. Staff will come back to the Transportation Policy Board with further recommendations.

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