Kirk P. Watson, a champion of transportation investment for Austin and the entire state of Texas for more than two decades, was inducted into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor at a luncheon and ceremony held at the Marriott Downtown in Austin Nov. 4.
Watson, described at the event as a statesman and transformational servant leader, has envisioned, strategized, and delivered numerous transportation projects to improve the state’s economy and its citizens’ quality of life.
Throughout his decades-long career in public service as Texas senator, mayor of Austin, and chair of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board, he has championed numerous projects to improve transportation mobility, funding, air quality, and safety.
About 100 guests were welcomed to the event by Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, a longtime friend and colleague. Speakers Dierdre Delisi, former chair of the Texas Transportation Commission; Ashton Cumberbatch, Jr., special counsel at McGinnis Lochridge and a former employee of the city of Austin; and Ray Wilkerson, former chair of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), all recounted Watson’s many contributions to Texas transportation.
“Senator Watson was a key ally in the Texas Legislature for initiatives that advanced critical transportation policy statewide,” said Delisi. “His crowning achievement will undoubtedly be the work he’s done to advance the I-35 capital express project.”
As mayor of Austin, Watson passed multiple transportation bonds, served as an advocate for public transportation, developed a new international airport, and encouraged environmental stewardship and transportation planning.
Cumberbatch reflected upon Watson’s relationship-building skills as mayor, especially in convening representatives of Austin’s minority communities “to listen to their perspective of what an equitable, multimodal transportation system would look, sound and feel like” during an important city bond election to expand bus and rail lines.
“I have worked with Kirk for decades, and I can attest that he has been a catalyst that has created economic development in our region,” said Wilkerson. “In regard to the CTRMA, Kirk helped us bring the addition of over 480 lane miles of roadway projects and more than 70 miles of bike lanes and pedestrian paths. He helped us facilitate partnerships, such as with Capital Metro, and significantly increased Metro express buses and ridership.”
“Even with these numerous and significant accomplishments, Kirk’s real strength lies in his dogged determination and special ability to engage stakeholders, define the issues, and arrive at consensus to deliver transportation solutions for the public,” said Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Agency Director Greg Winfree.
Watson said that he was deeply honored and very thankful for this recognition. He also pointed out his many years of working with TTI and how valuable TTI had been to him. “As we face the transportation challenges of the future, we need organizations like TTI to guide us and assure we are innovating.”
Watson is the 47th member of the Hall of Honor, which was established in 2000 by TTI to recognize select individuals who played pivotal roles in the advancement of transportation in Texas and the nation. Each individual is recognized by a plaque on permanent display in the Hall of Honor, which is located at TTI’s Headquarters in Bryan, Texas.