COMPLETE COVERAGE: Trolley funding

Rep. Pickett fears the project could affect voter support for a measure to generate transportation funds

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Trolley funding

EL PASO, Texas - State Rep. Joe Pickett issued a letter to the community, stating he is against the trolley project planned for Downtown El Paso.

Pickett told ABC-7 Tuesday he thinks it undermines an effort to generate more money for state transportation projects.

"There's so many other projects. We almost had to beg to get the new interchange on the east side," said Pickett. "TxDOT even pushed that back, so I'm disappointed about the priorities."

Pickett told ABC-7 he doesn't like the timing of the trolley project.

City Council approved creating an agency and funding source for the trolley last week.

And crews could break ground by the end of the year.

"This action ... by TxDOT is jeopardizing a constitutional amendment in November," Pickett said, adding, "We had absolutely no opposition until TxDOT started doing last minute projects like this around the state."

Pickett is referring talking about a measure he sponsored -- the Texas Transportation Funding Amendment. If approved by voters, transportation projects -- from construction, to maintenance and others -- would get additional funding without creating new taxes, tolls or fees.

The money is generated from the state's annual oil and gas production tax collections, most of which currently goes into the state's Rainy Day Fund.

"We're going to the public asking for their support because we're out of money," said Pickett. "But it seems TxDOT can find $97 million when it suits their needs."

Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton -- a strong supporter of the trolley -- wasn't available for comment Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is the agency that sets transportation priorities and policies for the area.

The MPO is slated to designate the trolley a priority project during its meeting Friday.

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