Hurricane Harvey exposed a significant under-investment in flood control mitigation. Harvey was a rainfall event of epic proportions and probably would have overwhelmed any economically feasible defenses. But this storm and others over the last three years have laid bare a pattern of long-delayed maintenance and construction of facilities that could have lessened the flood damage.
Does investment in flood mitigation work?
Yes. Even during Harvey, hospitals and other critical facilities that invested in flood gates and relocation of emergency power survived better than in previous storms. Levees and modern development standards protected many areas. If the Corps of Engineers detention reservoirs in Harris County been better maintained or supplemented, many homeowners along Buffalo Bayou would have been spared.
What can be done?
Several businesses and economic development groups in Greater Houston have come together behind a plan that would construct additional reservoirs, restore capacity in existing reservoirs, increase bayou conveyance capacity, and provide funds for strategic buy-outs of homes. This plan has an estimated cost of over $30 billion. Even with extensive federal investment, a challenge remains for state and local governments.
The Texas population is expected to double by 2050. But we have too much demand for roadway space and not enough supply. As a state, we are facing a critical transportation crisis that, until a few years ago, was not being talking about.
As it stands, we do not have enough dedicated funds budgeted to sustain our current conditions, but we have made some important, conservative improvements over the last two years to improve our funding situations. In 2014 and 2015, more than 80% of Texas voters overwhelming voted for Propositions 1 and 7 to direct a significant amount of state revenue into highway funding.
What did the legislature do?
In 2010, a blue-ribbon panel of state leaders estimated that Texas needed $5 billion in additional investment – plus continued use of toll roads – in order to maintain the 2010 level of mobility and road conditions. Various actions such as the passage of Propositions 1 and 7 and ending diversions have supplied about $3.5 billion of this shortfall. But in 2017, the Legislature reversed progress by pausing various toll strategies and allocating a portion of the new money to pay off debt on projects already constructed. In 2017, we went backward.
What can you do to help?
It is becoming increasingly clear that in the state’s major metropolitan areas, mobility mega-projects such as IH-35 in Austin and San Antonio, IH-45 in Houston, IH-635 in Dallas, and others will take decades to construct under current funding projections.
Don’t let sitting in traffic and watching your home flood be the picture of 21st century Texas. Advocate for more infrastructure funding and sign our petition.