Ongoing improvements to Port Houston are crucial regionally, nationally and globally. Wharf 2 at Bayport received a federal TIGER grant. (Photo courtesy of Port Houston)

Houston Area Policy Advocate Says Funding and Working through Nation’s Transportation Challenges Critical for America

Infrastructure Advocacy in Texas

For the Partnership, communications with members of Congress and their staffs about regional economic metrics and constituent impacts are the pivot points that propel policy. Within Texas and the Houston region this includes reaching out to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and the 10 members of the region’s U.S. House delegation.

“Transportation projects are always ongoing. … Despite the pandemic, it’s still something we’re heavily focused on. The art of advocacy has shifted a little bit now, but the policy positions are still there,” explains Kronzer. “We have a solid relationship with both Democrats and Republicans and it doesn’t matter whose in charge. We work with people on both sides of the aisle.”

Among the advocacy needed with members of Congress and their staffs is communicating that if the goals of specific funding are more immediate economic benefits, to consider more expedient spending on infrastructure initiatives such as existing projects, repairs and backfilling needs.

However, Kronzer notes that a balance is always needed. Larger or newer projects require longer timeframes because of factors such as engineering and environmental reviews. But in solidifying longer-term certainties, they also create jobs and pump money into regional economies. Elevating and modernizing American infrastructure overall mean increasing capacity and integrating newer safety features and technologies.

According to Kronzer, earlier feedback from Texas’s public-works and transportation departments primarily indicated that projects underway prior to COVID-19 are proceeding and on schedule. With fewer people on the road, some were even fast-tracked.

States, however, are starting to be hit because of the economic downturn and infrastructure proponents are aware of this in the push for increased federal investment. Kronzer notes that a portion of Texas transportation funding comes from a tax on oil (which experienced price drops) and the economic downturn means state budgets likely will be hit. The Comptroller is expected to detail in July how the state budget is being impacted.

Early on, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) asked for a $50 billion federally funded backstop. The House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act includes $15 billion for transit and $15 billion for DOTs, but that will not put a dent in the longterm federal investment needed to modernize the nation’s roads and bridges and upgrade public transit.

“Being able to connect Houston and products going from and through — whether it’s a ship channel, whether it’s freight channels, whether it’s pipeline products, being the Energy Capital of the World, or a key export hub — matters to our region. Being able to solve logistical and transportation challenges is key to maintaining our status as a global city,” explains Kronzer.

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