If Texas Department of Transportation Director Phil Wilson had any doubts about the attitude in the Eagle Ford Shale region to his plan to turn paved Farm to Market roads into gravel roads, the uncertainty was dispelled at an angry public meeting last night in Cotulla, 1200 WOAI's Michael Board reports.
Residents and business groups took Wilson to task for 'going backwards' on Texas roads.
"It makes you wonder why anybody in this day and time would want to go backwards," said Marianne Hall, who heads the Cotulla Chamber of Commerce. "You've got innovation going forwards, but TxDOT wants to tear it up and go back to the old way."
TxDOT has said that oilfield roads in five Eagle Ford counties will be converted from paved to gravel, because the costs of repairing paved roads damaged from the rumbling of oilfield vehicles would be prohibitively expensive.
Taxes paid by the oil and gas industry are already paying for nearly $1 billion in road repair and renovation, if Texas voters approve an ambitious plan next year. But TxDOT engineers say there is still not enough money to repair all the roads across the Eagle Ford which have been damaged in the oil boom.
The Legislature appropriated $400 million to repair oilfield roads.
Hall says the idea of converting paved roads to gravel, which was state of the art in the 1930s, is amazing.
"Whether its a pavement or a blacktop or whatever, then all of a sudden we're going to go back to gravel? Seems like there's something wrong with that picture."
TxDOT has indicated it is willing to compromise on this and on a second controversial money saving move. TxDOT has also suggested turning state and farm to market roads within urban areas over to the cities for maintenance and repair. Cities like San Antonio are pushing back strongly against that proposal.