A group of Brazos Valley officials are traveling to Austin today to testify at a hearing for a bill that would assist the county in creating a Regional Mobility Authority. They believe the bill would help to combat increasing traffic congestion in Bryan-College Station.
House Bill 642, which is sponsored by Texas Rep. John Raney, would authorize a county fee on vehicle registration in Brazos County — and other counties of more than 190,000 residents that opt in — to be used for transportation projects. Locally, the $10 fee would be added to residents’ vehicle registration fees.
The traveling officials, all of whom expect to testify, include College Station Mayor Karl Mooney and Brazos County commissioners Nancy Berry (Precinct 3) and Steve Aldrich (Precinct 1).
Aldrich said further fee hikes would require voter approval at the ballot box, adding that traffic and congestion frustrations are consistently among Brazos County residents’ most vocalized concerns.
“People recognize the need in our community to address transportation concerns,” Aldrich said Monday. “This bill — and the Regional Mobility Authority — allows us to raise our own funds and address these issues directly. This is our solution to deal with congestion in Brazos County.”
“It’s another tool in our toolbox,” she said. “It could help us access state and federal funding to address our transportation issues.”
Raney, who represents District 14, is the representative for most residents of Bryan and College Station. He filed the bill on Jan. 4, and it was read before the entire House body Feb. 21. Legislators referred it to the Transportation Committee later that day.
Mooney said he has made several trips to Austin on behalf of College Station since the term began and has several more planned through the end of the legislative session.
“Anybody who lives here knows that our roads are getting more and more congested,” Mooney said.
“We are growing steadily,” he continued. “We have over 120,000 people in College Station now. The RMA will enable us to plan ahead and have the funds to make roadway improvements as needed, rather than wait and wait for TxDOT, when we’ve been told we are not at the top of their priority list.”
In October, the Brazos County Commissioners Court unanimously authorized the petitioning of the Texas Transportation Commission for the creation of a local RMA at its weekly meeting.
Raney and Texas Sen. Charles Schwertner co-wrote a letter that expressed support for a Brazos Regional Mobility Authority.
“We believe an RMA is an appropriate entity for creation at this time,” the letter reads. “The formation of the BRMA will facilitate greater collaboration between local leaders and governments, and assist in providing solutions to the region’s transportation needs.”
The authorization is the first step in a four-step process that would create a countywide local government agency that would work alongside, but independent from, the 10-county TxDOT Bryan District. RMAs do not have taxing authority but do have the power of eminent domain, according to Texas law.
Data compiled by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute indicate that, since the early 1980s, congestion in Bryan-College Station has been growing at a rate of more than 5 percent each year.
Current population estimates of Brazos County range between 220,000 and 230,000 residents.
Regional Mobility Authorities are authorized to finance and maintain a wide range of transportation facilities and services. Neighboring counties may be added to the RMA at a later date. Funding for RMAs can come from a variety of sources, including rail funds and federal highway funds. Other sources can include tax-exempt revenue bonds, private equity, public grants, government loans and revenue generated from existing transportation facilities.
Projects taken on by one or more of the nine existing RMAs in the state include highways (tolled and untolled), ferries, airports, bikeways and intermodal hubs.
The Texas Legislature first authorized the creation of RMAs in 2001 with passage of Senate Bill 342. Texas voters approved a subsequent constitutional amendment on Nov. 6, 2001.