By Elsa Maxey
Fort Bend County Commissioners are up to date on the process for developing a 2040 regional transportation plan. But County Judge Bob Hebert made it clear that he does not like the population numbers on the Houston Galveston Area Council’s (HGAC) regional transportation plans.
“Let me put it in a better perspective as a county judge,” he told Roland Stobel, H-GAC’s Chief Transportation Planner, who was before commissioners court last week during a workshop presentation. “If you misrepresent our demographics, you cost us money, you cost us projects.” He told Stobel that in “this next go round, if you consistently do that again, we seek to litigate you” to correct the information, “and we don’t want to do that, so we just as soon you address it up front.”
Stobel told commissioners that the regional transportation plan is a blueprint for an eight county region and, HGAC is seeking comments from the public online. “We’re moving ahead into the 21st century with a new vision statement and goals for this plan,” he said. After the goals of the plan are established, Stobel told commissioners HGAC would come up with performance measures within the next two years. “That’s when federal guidance is going to come out on what kind of measures we should be using.”
But the goals to be developed “don’t mean anything to me, they are political BS,” said Judge Hebert noting that if nothing was done in the next 10 years, a few accidental achievements could indicate that goals were met. He said federal performance standards have been simplistic or “too obtuse” to be measured. Although not against the goals to be set by HGAC, Judge Hebert asked that it come up with a secondary set of measures to determine if the goals are being achieved.
Stobel reported that the 2010 census shows this region at about 6 million people, and by 2040, it is expected to grow to over 9 million with the population mix changing and showing older age groups, 60 and up, growing in size compared to age group 0 to 20 years. Clearly an impact on the transportation system, the older age group may no longer choose to drive, which changes transportation demands, he said. Also, as the state begins to urbanize, distances will be shorter, and people will not have to travel as far.
Economic changes statewide were cited showing that over the next 30 years, the state is expected to see motor fuel taxes grow by only 30 percent over the life of the current plan. “If the region is adding 50 percent more people, and we’re only having 30 percent more dollars to fund transportation, there is a disconnect.”
The regional transportation plan is in early stages of development. Those interested are asked to visit 2040 plan.org to complete a short survey. There is also a section for more extensive comments.