Where are we going? How will we get there? These questions aren’t just philosophical…they’re strategic. In February 2009, the Texas Transportation Commission adopted the 2030 Committee Texas Transportation Needs Report, which was developed by the Texas Transportation Institute and the Center for Transportation Research. The report identifies that Texas will need some $315 billion to meet its transportation needs for the next 20 years.
Better strategic planning will help streamline our state’s approach to meeting those needs. To that end, the Texas Legislature has been calling upon the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) more often over the past year.
“Leveraging TTI‘s expertise is one way to meet the challenges of maintaining and enhancing the Texas transportation system,” explains Cinde Weatherby, who directs TTI‘s newly christened Center for Strategic Transportation Solutions (CSTS). “Our job is to provide the state’s transportation decision makers with the most accurate, factual information we can as they face these challenges.”
Created by the 81st Texas Legislature, CSTS analyzes “big picture” transportation issues and evaluates strategic solutions to address various statewide transportation. Legislators see TTI as an unbiased third party regarding the future of transportation in the Lone Star State. The center has coordinated TTI expert researcher testimony 11 times before eight different committees to date in 2010.
The center’s current projects emphasize economic analyses and projections. One of these, conducted for the Texas House Select Committee on Transportation Funding, is trying to answer the question, “What is the cost of not increasing the resources available for transportation projects?”
“You can’t start talking about solutions until more people understand the problems,” says Weatherby. “Transportation funding, planning and project implementation are complicated issues, particularly for those who aren’t engineers or planners.”
While the center’s primary customer is the Texas Legislature, Weatherby also wants to reach out to other governmental levels in Texas and to other states. “Many of the challenges faced at the state level are the same as those faced by municipal, county or regional officials,” she says. Weatherby hopes to make the CSTS website, currently in development, a source for information exchange for communities across the United States.
As a member and advisor on several national transportation committees, Weatherby is able to connect with colleagues nationwide trying to answer the same questions. Exchanging best practices will help Texas and other states share lessons learned at a time when no one can afford to reinvent either the wheel or the road it drives on.
“Our legislators are looking for data, they’re looking for advice, and they’re looking for answers,” says David H. Cain, chair of TTI‘s Advisory Council and former member of the Texas Legislature. “When they want to get the information from those who will give it to them in the unvarnished way, the unvarnished truth, they come to TTI.”