“We can do more” was the theme that emerged during the opening session of the 83rd Annual Transportation Short Course at Texas A&M University Oct. 13. The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT‘s) annual gathering attracted 2,000 participants.
Short Course is co-sponsored by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and this year celebrated the Institute’s 60-year relationship with the department. TTI Director Dennis Christiansen presided over the opening session and highlighted the transportation accomplishments that have resulted from the collaboration.
“This partnership, begun nearly 60 years ago, remains the model the rest of the country still strives to emulate,” Christiansen said. “It has led to innumerable transportation advances and innovations not only for Texas, but throughout the U.S.”
The opening session began with a 20-minute TxDOT-produced video detailing how the department prioritizes environmental issues as part of its operations. Examples cited included TxDOT‘s pavement recycling program and the 600 tons of paper recycled by the department each year.
Texas A&M University System Regent Bill Jones addressed the crowd about the impact that TxDOT has on Texas. “You are often criticized — rarely recognized. But I challenge you to continue. Our well-being depends upon it,” he said.
The speakers discussed the various issues facing TxDOT, including the Sunset Review process by the Texas Legislature, funding shortfalls and most recently the federal rescission of $742 million in highway funding. TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz told the crowd that “Texans are counting on us, and we will continue to make changes.” Saenz also mentioned the internal review that’s under way designed to make the department more efficient.
Members of the Texas Transportation Commission also addressed TxDOT employees, emphasizing their dedication and the impact that they have on transportation in the state. “The quality of life, air quality…everything is dependent on the work that you do,” Commissioner Ned Holmes said. “Change is simply part of life. We just need to make change work for us. We need to be engaged.”
Included in the opening session was the annual presentation of the Extra Mile Awards. This year, seven TxDOT employees were recognized for saving the lives of their fellow Texans.
Planning for this year’s Short Course presented a big challenge for TTI‘s Director of Administration Mary Cearley and her staff. Usually, the numerous break-out sessions are held at Texas A&M University’s Memorial Student Center (MSC). However, the MSC is closed for renovations.
“Thanks to our team of 80 TTI volunteers, we were able to get all the attendees to the various on- and off-campus session locations,” Cearley said.
In addition to the logistics volunteers, more than 20 TTI staff co-chaired, moderated or conducted presentations for the break-out sessions. In case attendees were unable to see some of the presentations, TTI‘s Visual Media Group taped each of the sessions, which will be posted to the Institute’s website.