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Midland-Odessa Region Struggles with Growth, as Permian Basin Oil Boom Refuses to Ebb

Texas 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer | Permian Basin 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer | Zehl & Associates

The Midland-Odessa region is struggling to cope with the consequences of the Permian Basin oil boom, with a new report suggesting residents across west Texas are beginning to grow weary of never-ending traffic jams, rising home prices, and overcrowded schools.

Big Oil Pouring Billions into Permian Basin

Oil booms have always been a fact of life in the Permian Basin. But as Reuters recently pointed out, previous booms were always followed by a bust. For that reason, officials in the Midland-Odessa region had been reticent to upgrade infrastructure and ensure the housing stock and schools could handle what was always a temporary influx of oilfield workers and their families.

But this current Permian Basin oil boom is different, and shows no signs of stopping.

The last oil crash occurred in 2014, but the Permian Basin barely noticed, as big energy companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron continued to pour billions of dollars into the west Texas drilling fields. As a result, the area’s population didn’t just remain stable after the last crash, it actually continued to grow.

Today, more than 3,800 students cram into Permian High School, a campus with the capacity for just 2,500. Meanwhile, the median price of a home in Midland hit $311,000 in April, exceeding every community in the state except Austin. Even at that price, housing is in short supply all across west Texas.

“We’re behind, because we never invested in ourselves,” Midland Mayor Jerry Morales told Reuters.

Midland-Odessa Leads State in Deadly Truck and 18-Wheeler Crashes

Nowhere is this more apparent than the Permian Basin’s often narrow and deteriorating rural roadways, which were never designed to handle the thousands of oilfield trucks and other vehicles that now traverse the region every single day.

It doesn’t help that west Texas is suffering from a severe hiring shortage that’s only encouraged more and more inexperienced, overworked, and fatigued oilfield truck drivers to take to the road. That combination of poor roads and inexperienced truckers has helped make Permian Basin highways among the most dangerous in Texas.

“Some of the greatest increases in road traffic among our roads are our rural roads, the roads that connect to larger towns and cities,” Department of Public Safety Spokesperson Sgt. Oscar Villarreal recently told the Odessa American. “In the Permian Basin area there’s a significant increase in crashes along I-20, U.S. Highway 285, State Highway 302 and the range of crashes go from minor crash to fatality.

In fact, the Midland-Odessa region has seen truck and 18-wheeler crash fatalities rise by more than 120% in just three years, and now actually leads Texas in deadly commercial vehicle accidents. During the same three-year period, overall traffic fatalities increased by 160%.

Is West Texas Finally Ready to Invest in Infrastructure?

With the latest shale boom showing no signs of stopping, many local officials across the Permian Basin are finally talking about infrastructure improvements.

Mayor Morales, for example, told Reuters that Priority Midland – a long-range planning initiative formed this year by officials in government, business and philanthropy – is preparing a get-out-the-vote effort to encourage support for increased school funding and a possible sales tax hike that would pay for hospital service upgrades and better roads.

“The mindset is changing,” Mayor Morales said. “There are those who understand we’re growing and we need these things.”

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