DALLAS - Tarrant County, Tex., voters approved about $433.1 million of debt for new roads and criminal justice facilities in May 2006, but cost increases and credit market upheaval have kept most of the road projects on the shelf.
About $200 million of the largest bond package ever passed in the growing county, which includes Fort Worth, will be used to fund upgrades and expansions to numerous roads. Roughly half of the debt has been issued by the county.
"Our participation in these projects is capped and if the cities can't put together their share, then the projects get held up," said Marc Flake, the county's public information officer. "We put this [bond package] out there for specific reasons and that was to provide increased mobility and relieve congestion. [The funds are] there and if the cities can follow through on their end, we're ready to move forward."
Flake added that some cities are tweaking and adjusting their plans and how they'll fund their share, further hindering some of the projects.
"There's one city that has a whole new administration ... new mayor, new city manager, and they didn't like the projects the other folks laid out and are changing their minds. But it's our position that we provide the projects as we sold them to the voters a few years ago," Flake said.
He also confirmed published reports that about 90% of the road projects included in the bond package have been delayed.
Dolph Johnson, assistant city manager for Saginaw, which is about 10 miles north of Fort Worth, said his city's road project ran about $1 million more than originally thought back in 2005.
Now the city council has to go back to the county to ask for a potential change of the project to widening a road to four lanes instead of six, further slowing the expansion. But the city will start taking bids and see if the contractors can get it done within the same budget, Johnson said.
Saginaw sold $3.8 million of certificates of obligation in August 2007 for the project and expects to receive about $7.1 million in total matching funds from the county, the federal government, and North Central Texas Council of Governments.
These types of delays come as the North Texas Tollway Authority prepares to decide later this month whether to bid for the right to build the $1.3 billion State Highway 161 tollway west of Dallas.
Last year, the NTTA issued $3.5 billion of bond anticipation notes to provide an up-front payment to the Regional Transportation Council for the right to build SH 121 north of Dallas as a toll road.
In Fort Worth, the NTTA is in the final design stage for another toll road, dubbed Southwest Parkway, that would extend SH 121 south through the city's central business district to southern Tarrant County.
Elsewhere, the Texas Department of Transportation recently said it has begun "chipping away at $1.1 billion worth of projects delayed last year after agency officials made a big accounting error and came up short of that much money."
Most of those projects are in South Texas and TxDOT said it "has since moved forward" with about $400 million of the projects, and "freshly available bond proceeds would allow the agency to move forward on the rest - including more than $430 million this fiscal year and the rest in the following two years."
The Texas Transportation Commission recently authorized additional voter-approved bonds to be issued at the urging of Gov. Rick Perry, Lieut. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Tom Craddick, according to TxDOT.