Audit shows TxDOT exaggerated the numbers – again

| 5/1/2007

The Texas state auditor has concluded that transportation officials used inflated numbers when they reported an $86 billion funding gap for highways and transportation projects.

The audit released April 30 has a familiar ring to it because it is the second scathing review of transportation funding estimates this year in the state.

State Auditor John Keel said the $86 billion estimate by Texas Department of Transportation officials should be more like $77.4 billion, but that’s not all. Nearly $38 billion of that estimate took into account undocumented cost estimates from city officials competing for shared transportation dollars.

Keel’s team of auditors concluded that while additional funding for transportation is needed, TxDOT’s formula “may not be reliable for making policy or funding decisions.”

Furthermore, the April audit showed that TxDOT’s estimated “tax gap” – insufficient revenues to pay for future projects – was calculated on a 30-year scale, while auditors point out that the typical life of a transportation project is 40 years. That led to an inflated estimate of the funding gap.

Keel’s team previously criticized TxDOT earlier this year on another aspect of transportation funding.

The State Auditor’s Office concluded in February that officials understated projected cost estimates for the 4,000-mile Trans-Texas Corridor of toll roads and other infrastructure.

Transportation officials had estimated in 2005 that the proposed corridor network would cost about $183 billion. Auditors determined that one segment – the TTC-35, comprising about 14 percent of the proposed network – would cost $105.6 billion alone.

– By David Tanner, staff writer