Williamson eulogized as “one of a kind”
Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, was eulogized by Governor Rick Perry and Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz when several hundred people gathered inside the Weatherford High School auditorium for Williamson’s memorial service January 3.
Texas Transportation Institute Director Dennis Christiansen and Associate Agency Director Bill Stockton attended the service. “We wanted to pay our respects to Williamson and his family,” says Christiansen. “He was a driving force in Texas transportation and was extremely dedicated to his work.”
Williamson, 55, died December 30, after suffering a heart attack at his home in Weatherford.
Governor Perry, who shared an apartment with Williamson when they were freshman legislators in the mid-1980s, described the chairman as “probably the most persuasive individual I’ve ever been around in my life.” Perry said Williamson was like a brother and convinced him to run for lieutenant governor.
Saenz told the crowd that, although Perry will name a replacement, no one could really take Williamson’s place.
Consolidated Transportation Center to serve Metroplex
After more than three years in the making, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held grand opening ceremonies January 23 for the new DalTrans Transportation Management Center. The new 54,000-square-foot building, located along Interstate Highway 80 in Mesquite, replaces a much smaller facility and now brings all three operating agencies (TxDOT, Dallas Area Rapid Transit [DART] and Dallas County) under one roof.
The new center expands DalTrans’ capabilities and becomes the central traffic operations center for all highway management and intelligent system integration for 30 cities in the Metroplex.
DalTrans’ complete intelligent transportation system includes 200 cameras that monitor more than 1,000 square miles. Through the use of dynamic message signs, Internet information and media traffic reports from radio and television, motorists have access to real-time travel information.
Courtesy patrol trucks, dispatched when help is needed, are operated each day on 300 miles of Dallas County roadways. In 2006, the courtesy patrol responded to more than 97,000 incidents. The Texas Transportation Institute also occupies a three-office suite in the new building that will support researchers working on transportation operations and intelligent transportation system projects.
AAPO Honors TTI with Vision Award
Texas A&M University’s African-American Professional Organization (AAPO) presented Texas Transportation Institute with a “Keeping the Vision” Award during the organization’s Scholarship Gala March 29.
“An active supporter of the African-American Professional Organization, TTI has been steadfast in its commitment to improve the diversity of Texas A&M University,” said AAPO President Albert Broussard in presenting the award. “TTI staff consistently supports the organization by volunteering to schedule meetings, laying out the bi-annual newsletter, and training webmasters to update and input information to the website and AAPO list-serve. We will be indebted for many years to TTI for its assistance.”
TTI hosts the AAPO website, which was developed and designed by Network and Information Systems staff who worked with the organization’s website committee. The “Keeping the Vision” awards were designed to publicly recognize the individuals, departments and organizations that actively support AAPO’s goals and mission. The award is based on supporting the imperatives of the university’s Vision 2020 program.
Motorcycle Safety Forum addresses disturbing fatality rate
At a time when automobile deaths are on the decline in the United States, the number of motorcycle fatalities is skyrocketing. That sobering information has placed even greater emphasis on this year’s Motorcycle Safety Forum held in Austin February 13.
In his opening remarks to the 100 attendees, Center for Transportation Safety (CTS) Director John Mounce said motorcycle fatalities have increased for nine straight years and, for the first time, have outnumbered pedestrian deaths. “Rider fatalities now account for 11 percent of total fatalities (up from 5 percent in 1997) and dramatically affect the nation’s overall highway fatality rate,” says Mounce. “This trend is perhaps the greatest highway safety challenge our nation faces today.”
Over 100 people from all over Texas attended the meeting, which included safety advocates representing riders, trainers, law enforcement, engineers, educators, military, health professionals, and federal and state motorcycle safety organizations. This is the third CTS-sponsored Motorcycle Safety Forum in as many years, which was organized in response to the ever-increasing fatality rate. This year’s forum was co-sponsored by the Texas Transportation Institute with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Texas Department of Public Safety and Brown Distributing Company as participating agencies.
The day-long forum included presentations on crash trends, rider training, share the road programs, funding and strategic planning. Associate Research Scientist Patricia Turner discussed the new TxDOT motorcycle safety public awareness campaign entitled “Look. Learn. Live,” developed by TTI.
“This forum was the best attended and most successful Motorcycle Safety Forum we’ve had,” Turner said. “We are all working together, seeking ways to reverse the growing number of motorcycle fatalities.” Senior Research Scientist Quinn Brackett also spoke at the forum, presenting “Countermeasures to Reduce Motorcycle Crashes in Texas.”
As a result of the increase in fatalities, a Motorcycle Safety Coalition is being formed to come up with strategies to reduce motorcycle crashes. The volunteer members are planning their first meeting.
Dallas Little selected to give transportation engineering lecture
Dallas Little delivered the Kent Distinguished Lecture in Transportation Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) April 10. Little holds the E.B. Snead Chair Professorship in materials engineering in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University. He also serves as associate director of the Center for Aggregates Research and as a senior research fellow at the Texas Transportation Institute.
Little spoke about recent studies, including breakthrough work at UIUC, that have demonstrated the impact on even short recovery periods between load applications in the fatigue damage process of asphalt materials.
The Paul F. Kent Distinguished Lecture, initiated in 2007, honors outstanding leadership in the field of transportation engineering. Paul Kent was a 1920 graduate of the University of Illinois in civil engineering.
RITA administrator applauds TTI in inaugural visit
President Bush appointee Paul Brubaker, administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), told Texas Transportation Institute employees, “The world is going to look very, very different in 10 years.” Brubaker was referring to the nation’s growing and shifting population, the price of oil and the challenge of financing infrastructure projects. As RITA administrator, Brubaker is responsible for coordinating the DOT’s $1 billion research budget and is charged with advancing technologies that will improve the nation’s transportation system.
It was Brubaker’s first TTI visit since he was sworn in as RITA administrator last summer. His associate administrator for research, development and technology, Jan Brecht-Clark, accompanied him on the tour. Brecht-Clark oversees the University Transportation Centers program, which includes the Southwest University Transportation Center (SWUTC) and the University Transportation Center for Mobility (UTCM), both located at TTI.
“TTI is on the cutting edge of transportation research, and I want to thank you for the work you do,” Brubaker said during his visit December 11-12. He pointed out that transportation costs for American families exceed health care and food costs. Only housing costs more. “We need to find better ways to finance transportation because the gas tax is insufficient.” Brubaker endorsed public-private partnerships as one solution to the financing challenge.
Brubaker and Brecht-Clark were briefed on TTI, SWUTC and UTCM, and toured TTI’s TransLink® Laboratory, the Materials Laboratory and TTI’s Proving Grounds Research Facility. The visit also included a tour of the Bush Presidential Library.
“Dr. Jan Brecht-Clark and I found the briefings and exchanges very useful to understanding the major contributions the Institute is making to improve the safety and performance of our national transportation infrastructure. Moreover, TTI is performing a great service to the nation and the state of Texas by training the next generation of national, state and local transportation leaders,” Brubaker said. “The commitment and passion of the Aggie community to creating a world-class transportation research facility at Texas A&M was evident from all of the people we met.”