As Texas lawmakers from all over come to town for state business this summer, they're taking notice of Austin's traffic and transportation issues.
In particular, the tangle of toll roads surrounding the state capital hasn't gone unnoticed by legislators.
"I'm not a believer in this current Mopac project," state Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) told KVUE Tuesday. "I'm not from here, but I'm trying to say that I look at them across the state."
Pickett chairs the state House Transportation Committee, and fixing Texas' aging and congested roadways is his number one priority.
"Even though we need to talk about mass transit, TNCs, right now the only thing that really works is to add capacity," Pickett explained. "When you add a managed lane, you're not adding capacity for everybody. You're adding a lane for people who have the means or the support to do it. So I don't think that fits the bill."
Acknowledging tolls have been a useful tool to create needed infrastructure in some places, Pickett believes the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should end toll roads where it can, and be stricter when it comes to using public money for toll projects.
Department executive director James Bass reported to the committee that it would cost the state around $36.7 billion to immediately pay off every toll road in Texas. The findings are from a draft report on eliminating tolls ordered by the Eighty-fourth Texas Legislature as part of House Bill 2612.
"We look forward, after submitting a final draft of this report here in the next couple of days, getting feedback," Bass told media afterward.
Lawmakers are also considering ride-hailing regulations after Austin's high-profile battle with Uber and Lift over a city ordinance requiring prospective drivers undergo fingerprint background checks.
"I think there's a lot of inertia to come up with a guideline for cities in Texas of here's what we'd like you to incorporate," state Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) told KVUE.
A statewide ordinance would likely override Austin's -- and a state fingerprint requirement is highly unlikely. Researchers from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute testified that of the two dozen-odd states that have put uniform regulations in place for Transportation Network Companies (TNC), none have required fingerprints for drivers.
"My goal is to find something that the city of Austin can work with us on, that can also work with our other large metropolitan areas," said Israel. "We're all struggling with this issue."
Despite conducting business in other cities with similar ordinances, both Uber and Lyft threatened to leave Austin if the fingerprint requirement were left in place. The companies followed through on that threat after an acrimonious and fact-averse campaign ended with voters siding with city leaders. If the clock were turned back, Pickett suggests both sides would have done things differently.
"Taking hardball tactics with the Legislature doesn't normally work," Pickett told KVUE, warning that ride-hailing companies should keep their arguments to what the facts support. "I'm hoping they'll learn from it, from their experience in Austin. They need to decide what it is they can live with and they can't live with. Stick to that, and be clear and succinct about it, and I think it'll be fine."