GUEST VIEW: Investing in Permian Basin roads: A vital step for regional development

Tracee Bentley
Ellen K. Ramsey

By Tracee Bentley and Ellen K. Ramsey

The Permian Basin is the cornerstone of America’s energy industry. Yet, amid our region’s economic prosperity lies a critical infrastructure challenge: maintaining safe roads. Rapid growth and increased traffic resulting from the booming energy industry makes investing in and improving Permian Basin roads a necessity for continued regional development.

Safe roads are paramount to protecting the well-being of residents and fostering a secure environment for commuters and industry workers. The Permian Strategic Partnership (PSP) and the Permian Road Safety Coalition (PRSC) have proudly partnered on several infrastructure projects to increase road quality and safety for our community.

Unfortunately, the Permian Basin has the highest number of fatal roadway accidents in Texas. Several factors contribute to this unwanted fact, including dated infrastructure and human errors like distracted driving. While the PRSC and PSP have worked diligently to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities on the roadways through leveraging investments from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), publicly messaging safe driving tips, and offering several safe driving programs, more remains to be done.

In addition to improving driving conditions and driver safety, we need our first responders to be equipped with life-saving tools. Over the past five years, the PSP and the PRSC have joined forces to support our first responders. Together, we’ve contributed over $4 million and 8,500 pieces of equipment for our incredible first responders across 26 counties, covering Southeast New Mexico and West Texas – saving countless lives.

We are also laser-focused on ensuring the Permian Basin has the long-term funding required to sustain the region that directly impacts Texas’ economic competitiveness and security. A key component of this is TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program (UTP), a 10-year plan that guides the development of transportation work across the state. Organized into 12 funding categories, with each one addressing a specific type of work, the UTP authorizes the distribution of construction dollars expected to be available over the next ten years.

TxDOT Odessa District is currently slated to receive $3.9 billion over the next decade in the draft 2025 UTP. This allocation includes new funding for energy sector roadways as well as $162.4 million for US 285 in Reeves County, $35 million for the SH191 and CR 1250 Interchange in Midland County, and $61.6 million in additional funding for the I-20 Widening in Ector County.

Please join us in supporting TxDOT’s investments in our region by submitting a public comment in support of this funding via: 2025 UTP Public Comment Form. Public comments will be accepted until August 5, 2024, and the final 2025 UTP will be adopted on August 22, 2024.

Investing in and improving Permian Basin roads is not just a regional priority but imperative for meeting the global energy demand. The PSP and PRSC are working together to address infrastructure deficiencies and enhance safety. Together, we are prioritizing the critical investments needed to drive sustainable growth, ensure safety and secure America’s energy future.

Tracee Bentley is CEO and President of Permian Strategic Partnership and Ellen K. Ramsey is Executive Director of Permian Road Safety Coalition.