Chamber speaker addresses Houston's traffic jams
- Written by Patsy Oliver
King says fuel tax is insufficient Bill King, former mayor of Kemah, offered a wealth of traffic statistics to attendees at last week's Kingwood Chamber luncheon. Sparky Nolan, Chamber president, welcomed the gathering to the “April Shower the People with Love Lunch” at the Nathaniel Center, catered by The Veranda, whose owners, Pat and Ray Guard, also entertained the crowd with their musical talent. King took the podium and began by saying that Houstonians agree, traffic congestion is the leading issue the city faces. King illustrated the facts with some data from the Texas Travel Institute. The example showed that a 30-minute trip in Houston now take an average of 41 minutes, with congestion factored in. King said that traffic jams peaked in the '80s, and then declined in the '90s, but have been on the rise ever since. He said that if projections are correct, the 30-minute trip that now takes 41 minutes could triple in the next 20 years if nothing is done to address the problem. He said that fuel taxes have not kept up with inflation and the number of cars on the road, and are the leading revenue generator for road construction and maintenance. The average driver who drives 15,000 miles per year and gets 15 miles per gallon, said King, contributes about $30 a month to roadways through the fuel tax – a number that King says is too modest. King said that construction costs have gone up drastically over the years. Building lane miles is becoming increasingly difficult as the city becomes more dense, due to development along highways, bringing up the cost of right-of-way acquisition. Adding transit solutions, explained King, is not a good solution for Houston, however, because although density is increasing, the number of people per square mile is far less than in other major cities that use mass transit. King said that although many Houstonians say they are for transit, they prefer that “others” use it so they can drive their cars. King explained that 75 percent of the funds spent on new roadway construction in the state is “borrowed from the future,” a practice that he says cannot continue. He said that $4.7 million of the state's $5.7 million budget last year was used for maintenance, resulting in a deficit for new construction. King blamed the bulk of the funding problem on the Legislature, saying that most of Houston's dollars are lost in Austin. He said that of the total amount collected from Houstonians, $100 million goes to other states each year and $135 million to other regions. King encouraged the group to talk to state and federal representatives, to “let them know that this is not acceptable.” King offered another statistic that Houstonians cannot be proud of: as they are among the worst drivers in the country, and the worst in the state. King said that much of the congestion in Houston is caused by wrecks and that Houston drivers are three times more likely to cause wrecks due to speeding. King said that stalled cars are also a problem and said the Safe Clear Program should be expanded to all areas around the city. To learn more about King and his plans for traffic improvement, visit his Web site at www.BillKingHouston.com. Photo: Bill King, former mayor of Kemah and advocate for efficient delivery of public services, spoke to Kingwood Chamber members last week about Houston traffic issues, citing the Houston is the worst among the nation's 10 largest cities.