During the 92nd Annual Transportation Short Course on the Texas A&M University campus Oct. 15–17, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) employees were challenged to address the enormous changes facing the Lone Star State from projected population and economic growth.
Short Course has been held at Texas A&M since 1926 and hosted by TxDOT’s partner, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), since 1950. Nearly 2,600 TxDOT employees, researchers, consultants and public agency personnel attended this year’s Short Course, which is designed to share the latest transportation research and best practices from TxDOT-sponsored projects conducted by university-based agencies like TTI. It’s also the time that TxDOT honors its employees with achievement and safety awards.
“Short Course is always a highlight of TTI’s year and an important and visible example of the continuing success of the TxDOT cooperative research partnership with the universities,” TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree said during the opening session. “This partnership, now 68 years old, remains the model for the rest of the country. It has led to innumerable transportation advances and innovations, not only for Texas but throughout the United States and the world.”
That partnership will be called upon numerous times over the next 30 years as TxDOT and TTI help prepare the state for a population boom, from 28 million Texans today to an estimated 54 million by 2050. The unprecedented growth will place increased demand on existing infrastructure, creating additional safety issues and a critical need to better manage current and future congestion. Texas already leads the nation in the number of roadway fatalities.
“Because of this explosive growth, we need to focus on the most efficient and effective ways to move transportation projects forward,” said J. Bruce Bugg, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. “Now is the time to keep our promises to Texas voters to reduce congestion and improve mobility. The citizens of Texas have given us a vote of confidence, and we are ready to deliver. You are TxDOT, and together we are the TxDOT team.”
James Bass, executive director of TxDOT, told employees that safety is the priority for the agency going forward: “Something amazing happens when each of us has a personal stake in keeping the people we serve safe. When we do that, fewer people will die on the roads and more people will go home to their families at the end of the day.”
Winfree assured TxDOT employees that TTI is committed to helping TxDOT build and maintain the best and safest transportation system in the world.
“As we look at the many transportation challenges and opportunities before us, it is clear that the need for innovation is as strong as ever,” Winfree said. “To everyone at TxDOT, we promise to continue our commitment to serving you every day and helping you achieve your mission. We’ll ask the hard questions. We’ll seek the best solutions. And we’ll pursue the new innovations necessary to advance a safe, efficient and resilient transportation system for Texas.”
During the Short Course keynote address, former NASA astronaut Michael Fossum, who spent 167 days on the International Space Station in 2011, encouraged TxDOT employees to dream big for Texas.
“Footprints on Mars are the big dream for NASA,” Fossum explained. “What’s your big, audacious dream for TxDOT and the state of Texas? The challenges that you face are as big as the state of Texas. And this is the team to make [those dreams] happen.”