State Senator Wants To Keep Construction Penalties Within Regional Districts
By Matt Briscoe
The Southside Light
Back in January of this year Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) filed Senate Bill 282, a bill that is near and dear to the Senator’s heart for good reason. Senator Buckingham represents an enormous Texas Senate district right in the heart of the Lone Star State. Inside of the sprawling district that spans from Abilene in the north to Bandera in the south is nearly a 40 mile section of Interstate 35 running from just outside of Jarell to the tiny farming community of Troy. Within that section of roadway is the small village of Salado, which like many smaller communities along major interstate routes, took an economic hit when road construction projects are delayed. Construction estimates for the Interstate 35 project went way over schedule and like you would expect, there were penalties to pay by the contractor for delays that were not considered to be so-called “Acts of God.” But where did that money go?
The short answer is that the money goes to the Texas Department of Transportation for other projects that the agency is working on. However, if you live in Salado and the delays happened in your community, causing your little town a financial hardship you would think that the money would stay there, right? Well, think again.
The penalties do in fact go to the Texas Department of Transportation. However, those penalty funds can be used anywhere in the state for roadway and infrastructure repairs. Though the delays were in your district, the money could actually be sent to say, Midland to put in a new exit ramp. That is where Senator Buckingham’s Senate Bill 282 comes into play.
SB 282 is actually a rehash of a bill that Senator Buckingham filed back in 2017, her first session on the green carpet of the Texas Senate. The bill would basically make it to where when a contractor is penalized for construction delays, that money would stay within the TXDoT District that the delay occurred in. For example, if a state road project in Corpus Christi was scheduled to take 6 months and it ended up taking a year because of contractor delays, that the penalties would stay in the Corpus Christi district for future projects. And yes, it really is that simple.
Senator Buckingham’s Chief of Staff, Travis Richmond spoke with The Light last week and reiterated the Senator’s stance that this bill is not about Salado, it is about the next Salado.
Being new to the Senate chamber combined with an overly contentious session, the original bill that Senator Buckingham had been working on since even before she was sworn into office never really saw the light of day. But this time, it seems like it might actually make it. In a rare moment of harmony up in Austin, the bill passed the Senate last week unanimously by a vote of 30-0. Now, the bill has moved over to the House, where it is currently in the Transportation Committee. The Light spoke with several members of the House this week, who expressed support for the common sense bill.