With so much focus on the growth of Texas cities, we must be careful not to forget rural Texas. Much of the state’s wealth is grown, mined, or manufactured in rural Texas before being shipped to markets across the state, the nation, and the world. The transportation network that connects rural and urban Texas is a valuable asset to both the state and the nation.
The state is already committed to upgrading the highway infrastructure that connects rural Texas, but we need an influx of federal funding for these improvements.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and the state’s staggering growth is no different. From 2000 to 2020, the state’s population increased by 41%, and this growth shows no signs of slowing — Texas’ population is expected to increase by another 60% over the next 20 years.
This growth makes it clear that the Lone Star State is a very popular place to live, work and raise a family. But, unless you’re a native Texan, it’s hard to appreciate how much our state has changed in the space of a generation. Texas is known for its big skies and wide-open spaces. Now, once ranchland, farmland or oil fields, there are new housing developments stretching as far as the eye can see.
Migration to Texas’ cities has already spurred incredible investments in urban infrastructure. But, if you’ve ever driven 16-hours or more across Texas, you’ve seen how sparsely urbanized the state is.
The first and last link in regional, state, national and international supply chains, the Texas highway system connects the state’s rural areas to markets. These rural corridors not only connect major Texas cities, but are also important trade and distribution corridors for the nation. The state’s central location within the US, combined with its access to the Gulf of Mexico, has made Texas a hub for domestic and international trade. Geographically, Texas is in the middle of the country and shares its borders with four US states, the Gulf of Mexico, and the country of Mexico. The largest exporter in the US, Texas is spoke to the American business cycle.
According to research released by TRIP last month, rural roads in Texas face a number of challenges, from capacity and connectivity to safety and maintenance — the large trucks needed to support energy and agricultural production cause significant wear and tear to rural roads.
Texas is committed to addressing these issues through upgrades in highway infrastructure along key corridors across the state, recently completing $7.5 billion in road improvements in rural Texas and another $7.2 billion in upgrades planned or underway. Despite the state’s massive investment in rural infrastructure, Texas still faces a $27.8 billion backlog to fund all the improvements needed to support the state’s growing economic activity.
Leveraging federal funding will help fill this backlog, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide Texas with the additional resources it needs to modernize its rural highway system.
Understanding the relationship of the Texas economy to the American economy highlights the importance of increased federal investment in Texas’ rural highway system. Providing Texas with a rural transportation network that supports continued economic growth is a priority for the entire nation.
Good rural roads in Texas are essential to moving America’s supply chain, and without strong investment in reliable and efficient rural transportation corridors in Texas, America’s long-term prosperity is at risk.
Todd Stuck is senior vice president of sales and marketing for Kubota North America, headquartered in Grapevine, Texas.
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