The grand opening celebration for the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI‘s) first state headquarters building March 26 not only highlighted the past accomplishments of the Institute’s 60-year history but also the crucial work yet to be done.
“Quite frankly, this new facility is clearly the envy of our peers,” Agency Director Dennis Christiansen told the 200 people in attendance. “It provides us with facilities that are unmatched anywhere else in the country for the kind of work we do.”
The 66,700-square-foot TTI State Headquarters and Research Building (SHRB) houses a state-of-the-art Visibility Research Laboratory designed to test devices and materials used for pavement markings and traffic signs (see related story on page 4). Real-world visibility conditions can be simulated in the lab, allowing researchers to explore ways of making driving at night safer. Nighttime fatalities outpace daytime fatalities by a three-to-one margin.
“Some 250 to 300 people lose their lives in this senatorial district each year in traffic crashes,” noted State Sen. Steve Ogden, a champion of transportation safety. He received a standing ovation when he was introduced at the event.
Ogden told the crowd that Texans have a right to expect that our roads are as safe as possible. “The work that you do here will save lives today and in the future,” he said. “My hat is off to you. There is no more important task out there.”
Other speakers at the grand opening celebration included Morris Foster, the Chairman of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents; Michael McKinney, the Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System; TTI Research Engineer Paul Carlson; David Cain, President of David Cain Consulting; and Amadeo Saenz, the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
“This year we mark 60 years of excellence at TTI, which had a leading role in the design and safety of our highways, the financing of our transportation projects and the study of our traffic patterns to help us relieve congestion,” Foster told the crowd. “Within these walls important research will take place that will save lives by improving the quality of our transportation system.”
The new State Headquarters and Research Building in College Station is next door to TTI’s Gibb Gilchrist Building — where many of the agency’s research staff and laboratories are located — creating a campus-like atmosphere for the Institute. TTI also operates research and testing facilities at the Texas A&M University Riverside Campus, offices and laboratories in the CE/TTI Building on the main campus of the university, and urban offices in Arlington, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Houston and San Antonio, Texas.
“TTI is an integral symbol of Texas A&M System engineering excellence,” said McKinney. “This is the 60th year they have had a positive impact on transportation in Texas and throughout the world through their work in finance, construction and safety.”
Since it was established six decades ago, TTI has become known worldwide for its safety innovations, congestion and mobility studies, and research related to all modes of transportation.
“By any measure, for over 60 years TTI has been a leader and innovator in transportation research such as roadside safety, mobility, data collection and interpretation, urban congestion, environment, education — the list goes on and on,” said Cain.
“We are fortunate to have the support of everyone in this room at a time when transportation has never been more important,” Christiansen said.
During his comments at the celebration, Saenz told the crowd of his support for the Institute as he reflected on the TTI/TxDOT partnership that was formalized by the Texas Legislature in the late 1940s.
“Who would have imagined that some 60 years later that decision would have led to countless lives being saved and innovations that made TTI and TxDOT transportation leaders in the country?” Saenz said. “Safety innovations like crash cushions, sign supports, traffic barriers…these are just some of the things you’ll see going down the highway, and most were developed by a TTI research program and have been implemented by TxDOT, making our highway system safer.”