State Begins Crunching Costs of Road Damage From Gas Exploration

Categories: Transportation

Screen shot 2012-03-19 at 1.44.30 PM.jpg
via TxDOT
A Texas road, fracked.
The Texas Department of Transportation foots much of the bill for the road damage brought about by trucks traveling to and from hydraulic fracturing operations, and for the first time, the agency is collecting data with an eye to possibly recouping future funds.

Short-term spending for TxDOT includes $40 million to repair roads damaged by truck traffic in areas around the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale formations, where natural gas exploration is most prevalent. The department does not have data on how much state money has previously been spent on road damage due to these operations.

"[Collecting this type of data] is not something we've done in the past because it hasn't been so significant," TxDOT spokesman Mark Cross told Unfair Park. As recently as the past year, he said, his agency has noticed an especially significant increase in road damage in areas with a high concentration of gas wells. While drilling for natural gas is hardly new, it seems it's taken a while for the state to make special note of the cumulative effect on roadways, an issue noted by StateImpact.

Here are a few stats included in TxDOT's February report on the issue, based on numbers from Fort Worth:

1,184 loaded trucks are necessary to "bring one gas well into production," plus 353 loaded trucks per year for maintenance and 997 loaded trucks every five years to re-frac a well. Or, by the TxDOT's arithmetic, that's the equivalent of about 8 million cars, plus 2 million cars per year for maintenance, which translates to a thus far unknown but significant maintenance cost.

"Heavy, oversize, overweight vehicles" on "small two-lane roads" are the culprits of the torn up surfaces, Cross said. The TxDOT spokesman is quick to defend the natural gas industry for its economic benefit to the state, but the roadway damage that burdens his agency has prompted officials there to begin collecting information that lawmakers can potentially use to justify road repair funds from the natural gas industry. With that, more transportation data reports are all but certain, while changes in the next legislative session are distant but possible. Several counties have already enacted payment plans for roadway mitigation.

"We just look at it as action that has significant impact, and we need to find solutions to lessen that impact," Cross says. The transportation department estimates roads will continue being torn up by trucks for at least 20-40 years. With that, a long-term solution is necessary, but for now, TxDOT is simply beginning to extend its arms for peaceful offerings.


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pak152
pak152

I know let's make sure that TXDoT builds all roads in the state such that they can handle the largest heaviest trucks on the road. unfortunately when the roads were built no one know or suspected that a resource lay in the area. the roads were built to handle the current load not future load. maybe instead of waiting until the roads are in total disrepair TxDoT could consider upgrading the roads to handle the heavier loads for example putting down an extra layer of asphalt

claytonauger
claytonauger

At their inglorious apex of polluting, all three Midlothian cement plants put out the smog-equivalent of 500,000 to a million cars annually. An entire city's worth. TXDOT tells me each gas well produces the equivalent of 2 million cars a year of traffic in maintenance alone, much less the 8 million cars'' worth to frack and refrack. That's not only a lot of truck traffic. That's a lot of air pollution.

Paul
Paul

This is not anything new.

The cost to repair damage to roadways caused by large trucks (regardless of the type of truck) far exceeds the revenue in licensing, registration and motor fuel taxes.

A weight legal (no overweight permit, 80,000 lbs max weight) tractor trailer has a load of about 17,750 lbs per dual axle.

Compare this to the average auto of <1,500 lbs per axle.

I don't know if Texas does this, but some states allow truck companies to buy an annual overweight permit to increase the max weight from 80,000 lbs to 100,000 lbs.  At 100,000 lbs, the load is now about 22,250 lbs per dual axle.

Don't even try to get me started on the percentage of unpermitted overweight trucks, some sources say that this could be as high as 30% of all truck traffic.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

I am quite certain that the increased tax revenues can cover some asphalt,

Hell Ill pitch in $20 for making my electricity bill so damm cheap  

Mariana Griggs
Mariana Griggs

Mr. or Ms. Mitchem, I wish the increased revenue did match or exceed the cost of infrastructure damage (Like industry reps have convinced our city officials it will) and that the potholes were actually holes to a job dimension where life is bliss. Unfortunately, I do not think that is the case. Maybe next year we can have data to match the damage with the revenue. Until then, keep dreaming, industry will pay the least amount possible to get the most for themselves.I urge you to demand some straight talk and tough rules so we don't keep "socializing" the costs. Our roads can't take lax regulation and neither can our budget.MG

Dallas Residents At Risk
Dallas Residents At Risk

The Dallas City Council should require its staff to work with TxDot in doing a Cost/Benefit Analysis on the current 13 SUPs for gas drilling waiting in the wings.  What are the real costs of gas drillling to our infrastructure?  And for the proposed 200+ city leases that the gas industry paid $33 million dollars for the opportunity to drill?  I'll bet it will cost us (the taxpayers) a lot more than $33 mil to repair those roads. 

Then, before they vote for a new gas drilling ordinance, the Dallas City Council would have some facts instead of voting on gold rush emotion.

Attend a:Citywide Organizing Meeting on Gas Drilling in DallasTuesday, March 27th,  7-8:30 pmCenter for Community Cooperation2900 Live OakDallas, TX  75204

lorlee
lorlee

We need to  stop socializing the costs and make resource extraction pay for the actual costs and damages associated with the extraction.  Currently, they simply slash and burn and leave society and future generations with the mess and cost.  Roads, water, pollution, etc.

Santa Rita
Santa Rita

They also left future generations with a large chunk of UT and A&M as those schools were heavily funded by the state's oil and gas revenue fed Permanent University Fund.

pak152
pak152

 I know lets shut in all the d8mn wells that are currently producing, stop issuing new permits and stop current drilling operations. oil and gas is just plain evil. we can go back to burning wood and coal while reverting back to  whale oil for lighting. lets go back to horses and buggies. (won't mention the pollution problem that will ensue, but think about it)

Ed D.
Ed D.

Yes, "making companies pay for the damages they cause" is exactly the same as "ending all energy exploration and reverting to the 17th century". Good call.

Anon
Anon

It's just like Jim S and his water infrastructure issues. Building with a complete disregard for the infrastructure pressure creates jobs now. It has costs later. Guess which one is more important to every politician everywhere? The same is more or less true of energy extraction.

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