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Permian Basin Officials Cross Their Fingers As The State Decides If It Will Give The Region Extra Funding For Its Roads

By Mitch Borden

The Permian Basin may be in line to get more money from Texas on top of the millions it already receives, to help repair roads torn up by heavy trucks and other commercial vehicles. Local officials believe this will save lives and make the state money too.

If approved by the Texas Department of Transportation, the current draft of the Unified Transportation Plan, or UTP, could give the Permian Basin $600 million dollars on top of what it already receives for road construction and improvement projects over the next two years. The UTP sets out how the state will fund road construction in Texas for the next decade.

John Speed is with TxDOT and is the Odessa district's engineer. There is work being done around the Permian Basin, but still, he said, the region has a long way to go.

“I currently have about a half-billion dollars under construction right now. I’ll be letting another half-billion to contract next year.”

The resurgence of the oil industry in West Texas over the last decade has caused a large increase in traffic accidents in the area, but Speed said TxDOT is beginning to see a decrease in those numbers for the first time in years because of road improvements. In some areas, he estimated, accidents were down by 30 percent from last year.

“The numbers [of car crashes] are way too high, but it certainly is an improvement.”

Speed believes the more the state invests in West Texas, the safer roads will be. TxDOT will decide whether it allocates the extra $600 million to the Permian in August.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.