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City staff recommends new street maintenance fee to address aging roads

A construction sign reads "Road closed to thru traffic" in the foreground while a construction site lays sprawled in the background.
Emily Wolf
Fort Worth Report
A road closure sign directs drivers on Avenue G in southeast Fort Worth March 26, 2024.

New technology gave the city of Fort Worth a clear look at the conditions of its roads.

The new data revealed that over the next five to 10 years, 650 lane miles will need to be fully reconstructed if the city continues to delay maintenance of its streets.

“We all know this in our personal lives, it is more cost-effective to maintain what you have, instead of reconstructing brand new,” said Lauren Prieur, director of transportation and public works.

City staff are proposing City Council adopt a new fee to keep up with street maintenance needs across the city’s 8,100 lane miles. Staff pitched the idea of creating a street maintenance fee to collect additional revenue from property owners based on their usage of Fort Worth streets.

The city needs an additional $66 million a year to bridge the gap between the funding necessary for improvements versus the amount on hand.

The city identified seven categories of properties, each with its own fee rate.

“The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce supports policies that boost our city’s infrastructure and economic competitiveness while simultaneously advocating for keeping the costs of doing business in Fort Worth low,” Steve Montgomery, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber, said in a statement. “We’re dedicated to collaborating with city leaders and stakeholders, ensuring policies promote communitywide growth and prosperity.”

After the city got a complete picture of the conditions of roads across Fort Worth, staff began exploring ways to maintain the roads before they require reconstruction, Prieur said. A significant hurdle to keeping up with street maintenance is funding availability.

Currently, the city uses a dedicated fund called PAYGO, or Pay As You Go, to maintain streets and facilities. The city estimates that PAYGO funds only cover 30% of the need to improve and build vital roads, which are segments of roads that will only become more expensive to repair as time passes.

Staff attribute the gap in funding to population growth and inflation.

“The impact of deferred maintenance and underfunded maintenance reaches everyone in the city,” Lane Zarate, assistant director of transportation and public works, told council members.

A Blue Ribbon Task Force initially proposed paying for road improvements this way in 2010. Council member Carlos Flores remembers the 2010 proposal was geared toward roads in the growing north rather than stretches inside the loop.

Other cities in Texas already have a user fee, the largest being Austin, staff said. Fort Worth’s road maintenance fee would be tacked on to the resident’s utility bill.

“Every city is, to some extent, struggling to fund road maintenance,” Zarate said. “I will say some of them that have fees seem to have very good (road) network conditions.”

The road conditions across the city are concerning, council member Elizabeth Beck said. The city should take steps to maintain its roads better, she added.

“Quite frankly it doesn’t look great,” Beck said. “We have some work to do and we have to figure out how we get there.”

However, Beck is concerned that the city is considering levying a fee on residents, while the city is not charging developers for the full cost of building new roads. She asked for a clearer explanation of how staff arrived at the rates they plan to charge different kinds of businesses and developments.

The city determined the fee schedule based on industry standards that assign the number of trips generated by specific types of property, Prieur said.

If the fees are approved, the Transportation and Public Works Department will slowly phase in increased road construction over three years.

“We know this is a big ask and definitely a big decision point,” said Jesica McEachern, assistant city manager overseeing transportation and public works.

Council member Chris Nettles believes that the city could rethink how it uses budget funds to invest more in areas that need improvements without raising more money.

Council member Jared Williams also said he was hesitant about levying new fees because the city is undercharging businesses for growth-related expenses. Williams also pointed to more systemic issues such as urban sprawl and limited mass transit options that the city should solve to reduce the amount of pressure on Fort Worth’s road system.

“I think it needs a lot more work to push it through,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of question marks I have at least.”

Next, city staff will convene a stakeholder group with council members to provide recommendations on the street maintenance fee plan. Staff will also begin exploring how the city would put into place the new fee and use the funds.

Rachel Behrndt is a Government Accountability Reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or via Twitter.