HARLINGEN — Changes in the funding formula for smaller metropolitan planning organizations, like Harlingen-San Benito, will trim $2 million from a special highway category over 10 years.
The good news is the so-called Category 2 funding wasn’t previously available to the Harlingen-San Benito MPO, so the net gain is still going to be $76 million over the next decade.
“It’s still a good thing because we’ve never had money in that category for this area,” said J. Joel Garza Jr., director of the Harlingen-San Benito MPO.
Members of the Harlingen-San Benito MPO board were informed this week of the changes in the categories which make up the formula for how these TxDOT dollars are distributed. Statewide, Category 2 funding earmarks $2.2 billion for small- to middle-sized metropolitan planning areas over a decade.
For example, the new formula is based on population (25 percent), crashes (10 percent), total vehicle miles traveled (15 percent), total lane miles (12 percent), truck vehicle miles traveled (22 percent) and congestion (16 percent.)
Removed from the funding formula were categories including poverty and crashes by cost.
Nevertheless, the new funding formula caught the attention of board members.
“It seems like the more accidents we have, the more money we can get?” asked San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez.
“Look at Midland/Odessa,” said Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell. “The number that’s really out of whack there is the 162 crashes. It’s like you get more money if you have more crashes.”
The crashes category presumably is a calculation of the number of accidents occurring per a certain number of miles traveled. A TxDOT spokesman in Austin said yesterday he did not know how the crash number was reached.
Harlingen-San Benito, by contrast, had a crash number of 53.
The changes in the Category 2 funding formula were revealed at a meeting of the state MPOs in February, Garza said.
“This is something that we tried to change,” Garza told the board. “I did not vote for this, but in the end I feel comfortable with losing only 2 percent.”
Other cities lost much more, including Brownsville.
Under the old Category 2 funding formula, Brownsville would have received $91 million over 10 years. But the new formula gives the city just $85 million, a decline of 5.88 percent.
Harlingen-San Benito and Brownsville are the only Rio Grande Valley areas in the small to middle MPO category.
Garza said TxDOT likes to revise its funding formulas periodically in an attempt to modernize them. He said the last change in the Category 2 funding formula was about 12 years ago.
The changes will be finalized by the TxDOT board at its meeting in August, Garza said.
“What we have is the best that I think we can do in this area, and we didn’t lose as much as other areas,” Garza told the board. “So I feel comfortable with this.”
Lubbock — $194 million, up 13 percent
Odessa/Midland — $44 million, up 12.27 percent
Texarkana — $39 million, up 11.41 percent
Wichita Falls — $52 million, up 7.67 percent
Laredo — $99 million, down 9.83 percent
Waco — $178 million, down 9.37 percent
Sherman/Denison — $66 million, down 8.56 percent
Killeen/Temple — $217 million, down 6.94 percent
These TxDOT funds are earmarked for small to medium metropolitan planning organizations to be disbursed for road projects over the next decade.