Judge: Private funds needed to advance I-69 project
Polk County Enterprise, June 2007
LIVINGSTON — County Judge John Thompson remains hopeful that by the end of the month there will be some movement in the effort to tap private funding for I-69 that would include enhancements to the major north-south thoroughfare through Polk County.
But with the moratorium on private funds for toll roads — a key component of the proposed Trans Texas Corridor, the future for that project is unclear.
Thompson is chairman of the I-69 alliance, an advocacy group that represents 34 counties and many cities that would be affected by the transportation upgrades.
“No one disagrees with the fact that the gasoline tax is on the decline,” Thompson said.
“The need for new money is there. The will to raise the gas tax — in the face of the current price of gas — is not.”
Thompson added that the need for additional highways is radically outpacing the public funds to provide them.
“We have to find a way to tap private money. Folks won’t invest private money unless there’s a profit. They’re investing retirement funds, IRAs and big companies and they’re looking for places to put that money,” Thompson said.
Without the benefit of private dollars, Thompson said I-69 will not be built.
“Hopefully, I’ll live long enough to ride on I-69, but with the bill that we asked the governor to veto, H.B. 1892, there were a number of amendments that were detrimental to the whole corridor.
The highway trust fund goes into negative mode in 2009, according to the lastest projections, Thompson said.
Determination of the I-69 route is a complex approval process, but a draft Environmental Impact Study could help narrow down the proposed route, according to Thompson. As those plans develop, Thompson hopes Harris County will rejoin the I-69 Alliance.