Local and statewide policy makers from around Texas gathered on November 13 to discuss a wide range of challenges facing rural sectors of the state, and transportation issues were high on the agenda.
“The Future of Rural Texas” symposium on the Texas A&M University campus was hosted by The Texas Tribune and co-sponsored by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), as well as other sponsors. Lawmakers, local leaders, and advocates dove deep into transportation and other infrastructure matters, along with education, health care, natural resource preservation, the state’s economic future, and its political climate.
William R. Stockton, TTI agency deputy director, joined a panel focusing on infrastructure investment that also included State Representatives Celia Israel and Ben Leman, and Will Conley, chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Stockton cited the role that technology can play in connecting rural communities to education networks and marketplaces. “We may tend to think of capacity in terms of how many highway lanes there are, but the availability of technology infrastructure to accomplish the same goals reduces the criticality of need for additional highway lanes,” he told attendees. “So there are some real benefits associated with technology infrastructure as you deal with issues of connectivity between communities.”
Panel members also addressed the issues of energy production impacts on rural roads, transportation funding, high-speed rail and what they believe will garner the most attention in the next Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. Stockton underscored the value of research to assist policy makers with the challenges they’ll face when they convene in January, a function that would be aided by TTI’s policy research expertise.
“The focus of that area is to take the kinds of issues we’ve discussed today, and provide a resource for objective analysis to serve the legislators and answer their questions and give them a basis for making informed decisions.”