On behalf of the City of Tyler, I am writing to you to express my strong opposition to the proposed highway "turnback" program under consideration by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
I am appalled that we have State legislators who think the answer is to dump another unfunded mandate on our local communities because they will not make the tough decisions on funding.
The City of Tyler has infrastructure that we have constructed and would never contemplate passing our responsibilities off to another jurisdiction when confronted with tough funding choices. Given our longstanding and previously good working relationship with TxDOT, we are extremely disappointed that this action to abandon 42 miles of state roadways in Tyler is even being contemplated.
As you know, our City has worked hard to maintain our low tax rate and zero general obligation debt. This has not been easy – particularly in these tough economic times. We have chosen to decrease our staffing, defer projects, and undertake initiatives such as our Lean Six Sigma Program to cut costs and increase efficiency; all to ensure we are able to meet our commitments to our citizens. Passing these responsibilities off on others was not, and is not an option.
I thank you and others in state leadership roles who continue to fight hard to seek more transportation funding. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. There is much more work to be done in this regard, and we stand ready to support legislative actions to properly fund our transportation infrastructure. I call upon you to oppose any plan that passes on TxDOT's financial and operational responsibilities to cities. Shirking the responsibility to confront funding issues should not be an option. These challenges should be undertaken at the State level and not passed on to a targeted size of cities that do not have the capacity to care for state-owned highways without major tax increases on citizens at the local level.
As always, I thank you for your friendship and dedication to Tyler and East Texas. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue.