Roads Killed: Texas Adds Up Damages from Drilling

Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas

Tanker truck in rural DeWitt County

Texas could be looking at spending possibly hundreds of millions of dollars for road repairs and improvements to cope with the surge in oil and gas drilling.

“We have a task force [that] in the next 90 days is going out and talking to all the partners involved in the activity to see what we can do,” Mark Cross, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transporation (TxDOT) told StateImpact Texas.

Cross said the state has already made $40 million available for immediate paving of ripped up roads in the areas of heaviest drilling activity: the Barnett Shale in North Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. 

“The impact the trucks are having is roughly equivalent to eight million cars annually,” said Cross.

TxDOT

Damaged road in Karnes County

Hydraulic fracturing, the process that’s bringing up oil and gas from fields once thought to be depleted, requires millions of gallons of a mixture of water, sand and chemicals. TxDOT figures the average well requires 1,200 loaded trucks to bring it into production. Many of the wells are in rural areas where roads were originally designed for tractors and produce trucks, not tankers.

“It’s starting to degrade faster than we have ever anticipated. It’s starting to impact some of the major roads in our system that are going to be a higher cost to fix,” said John Casey, TxDOT’s District Engineer in the Corpus Christi area.

Casey said the big trucks are often too wide to pass two-abreast on rural roads so they run off the pavement, eroding the roads’ shoulder. Then there are the potholes. Or craters, as Casey calls them.

“There’ll be a crater in the road. It might be five to ten feet wide, it could be a foot deep. All of a sudden, it just appears,” said Casey.

Casey figures that in his district alone, they need $22 million for critical repairs but have received only $10 million. He said it will take much more to make other fixes as well as longer term improvements.

“We’ve just seen the beginning of it. I mean, people are talking now that this is going to be a 20 or 30 year deal,” Casey told StateImpact Texas.

Should the drilling industry help pay the bill? Whether it’s for roads or other government services, there is a precedent. In DeWitt County just southeast of San Antonio, local officials negotiated an $8,000 fee per well to help repair county roads (as opposed to state roads). In North Texas, the Arlington city council just enacted a $2,397 annual fee per gas well to help set up a special unit in the fire department to respond to well fires and leaks.

TxDOT said its task force will talk to drilling companies about voluntarily sharing the cost of fixing the roads but anything beyond that may require action next year by the Texas legislature.

“The Texas Oil and Gas Association is well aware of the road conditions and concerns that have emerged alongside incredible economic activity and commerce in Texas,” said Mari Ruckel, the association’s Director of Public Affairs.

While Ruckel said the association has formed its own committee to look at what the industry can do to address the road issue, she said that oil and gas producers were already paying substantially into government coffers. She said that in 2010 alone, they paid $7.4 billion in Texas severance taxes, local property taxes and royalties.

“The economic benefits are rippling into cities, counties and school districts,” Ruckel told StateImpact.

The issue could a thorny one for the state legislature. Already, there have been calls to close a big tax break the state grants gas well owners.

Comments

  • EyesOfTX

    Interesting that the author makes no mention of the billions of dollars in local property taxes paid by the oil and gas industry in ad valorem tax assessments to local taxing districts. These moneys paid to counties should be used by county governments to repair roads and for other infrastructure projects.

    Eagle Ford wells will generate incredible wealth to these counties, school districts, hospital districts, community college districts and any other entity that is allowed to levey property taxes for decades to come. This wealth will vastly out strip any damage to roads caused in the initial development phase of the play.

    For the author of this piece to omit mention of this critical piece of the pie is inexcusable.

    • http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/author/thenry/ Terrence Henry

      Hi EyesOfTX, we do in fact mention tax revenue from drilling in the article:

      “”The Texas Oil and Gas Association is well aware of the road conditions and concerns that have emerged alongside incredible economic activity and commerce in Texas,” said Mari Ruckel, the association’s Director of Public Affairs.

      While Ruckel said the association has formed its own committee to look at what the industry can do to address the road issue, she said that oil and gas producers were already paying substantially into government coffers. She said that in 2010 alone, they paid $7.4 billion in Texas severance taxes, local property taxes and royalties.

      “The economic benefits are rippling into cities, counties and school districts,” Ruckel told StateImpact.”

    • http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas Terrence Henry

      Hi EyesOfTX, we do in fact mention tax revenue from drilling in the article above:““The Texas Oil and Gas Association is well aware of the road conditions and concerns that have emerged alongside incredible economic activity and commerce in Texas,” said Mari Ruckel, the association’s Director of Public Affairs.While Ruckel said the association has formed its own committee to look at what the industry can do to address the road issue, she said that oil and gas producers were already paying substantially into government coffers. She said that in 2010 alone, they paid $7.4 billion in Texas severance taxes, local property taxes and royalties.“The economic benefits are rippling into cities, counties and school districts,” Ruckel told StateImpact.”

    • vitesse7

       We’ll need that money to truck in water once it is all contaminated or sucked dry.

      How about some of that road money for motorists? I have three vehicles that have had their windshields shattered from trucks. Last I checked destroying property is a crime, but these companies get off scott free.

  • BigTex

    What is the damage that food distribution by trucks causes to Texas roads each year?  I’m just saying this is a danger – a real one – and if we don’t create awareness and hysteria then … well frankly I don’t know what the future will hold.

  • http://fracdallas.org/ Marc

    The revenues from oil and gas production should not be used to offset road damage repairs. Those fees are for all the other things associated with the process including the same kinds of taxes levied on other businesses that do NOT destroy our roads.

    What we really need is a state law that specifically requires the gas and oil companies to pay 100% of the cost to repair the damage their vehicles cause. Without their heavily laden trucks the roads would not need this level of repair.

    MANY are the number of trucks that have been fined for carrying loads of several tons beyond their legal limits. DPS needs to start setting up roadside inspection stations on every road in and out of a well site and weigh each truck every time it comes in or out. Those who are illegally running overloaded should be fined the first time, and then have the drivers jailed and the trucks impounded for all subsequent violations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carol-Jean-Goodwin/1513718033 Carol Jean Goodwin

    Just what the ‘frack’ is going on?  Is this oil and gas benefitting the consumer in Texas?  Or is it going to othr states and foreign countries?  What kind of roads did these heavy equipment  trucks travel over before those roads were built?   I believe they were ‘dirt’ roads. and of course they ar destroying the pavement.  They should be thinking ahead and consider materials used in airport runways, which should stqand up to the big trucks.

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