December 31, 2016 - Houston Chronicle -

Let's get rolling.

To move Texas' economy forward and enhance our quality of life, local and state lawmakers in 2017 must address our road infrastructure funding gaps, embrace transit and prioritize rail needs. Addressing these priorities places Texas at the forefront of connectivity to remain nationally and globally competitive.

Our road infrastructure, while not the complete mobility solution, remains an enormous asset for our state. Lawmakers must convene another Blue Ribbon Commission (similar to the 2030 Committee) to assess the current funding gaps and ensure our roads keep pace with population projections. Lawmakers should agree to keep all funding tools, including toll roads, in the tool box. When we limit our funding resources, we limit the possibilities for sustainable solutions.

Transit is traditionally funded locally and at the federal level, and it is time for state lawmakers to embrace the Texas Department of Transportation as the advocate for all modes, including mass transit. Legislators need to evaluate TxDOT's budget for priorities other than roads and adjust the formula to mandate transit integration. This integration into our existing roadway infrastructure is essential to promote public transportation, conserve costs and reduce congestion.

Freight, commuter and high speed rail will shape the future of business in Texas and we are far behind. Lawmakers need to support viable commuter rail corridors and incentivize the urban communities that welcome this infrastructure through local-option funding. State leaders also must support policies that encourage the movement of freight along rail versus roads - moving more freight on rail reduces the strain on our roadways, and moving more people on rail reduces traffic congestion. Lawmakers must protect eminent domain for innovations in mobility like the proposed high speed rail - connecting the powerhouse urban centers of Texas will promote stronger economic stability and create hundreds of needed jobs.

In 2017, Texas lawmakers must put forth funding and policy initiatives that illustrate the importance of transportation infrastructure as the backbone of our economy and quality of life.

Andrea French, executive director, Transportation Advocacy Group-Houston region