With a new leader at the helm and significant changes in how we travel looming, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held its 88th Annual Transportation Short Course on the campus of Texas A&M University Oct. 13–15. The annual event, designed to inform employees about the latest innovations in transportation research, is organized and co-hosted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and TxDOT.
“We’re working on something very special,” LtGen Joe Weber told the 2,000 attendees of the opening session. “We’re working to prepare Texas for a first-class future, a future that will not have drivers bogged down in congestion, a future that will mean safer roads and better protections for the men and women who build them. A future that generations of Texans will be glad we built.”
This was Weber’s first Short Course after being hired as executive director in April. Weber said he wanted TxDOT to lead in producing innovative approaches to solving transportation problems rather than just react to advances as they come.
Many of the opening session speakers addressed connected-vehicles research and how that technology will change much of what TxDOT does.
TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen told the crowd “the changes will be revolutionary, not evolutionary.” Christiansen congratulated Weber— formerly the vice president for student affairs at Texas A&M University—on taking the lead at TxDOT.
“If any state has the need to sort out how you combine strategic infrastructure with effective development and deployment of technologies, it’s Texas,” Christiansen said. “And to its credit, TxDOT has taken steps in that direction. You have a technology task force, you have Accelerate Texas, and an agency that recognizes that this is part of the solution going forward.”
Numerous TxDOT managers received awards for their work on various projects around the state. And 10 employees were honored with Extra Mile Awards, handed out each year to those employees that helped or, in some cases, saved the lives of others.
A highlight of the opening session was a speech given by Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, the commandant of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. His speech about leadership earned him a standing ovation.
In connecting his talk to transportation, Ramirez showed a photo of a large pothole. The image spanned the stage of the Rudder Auditorium. “The road to success is full of potholes. You are going to hit some of them and they will slow you down. What’s important is to never let a pothole stop you. Getting knocked down is life. Getting back in the fight is living,” he said.