Continuing the beneficial relationship between the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and state universities was the underlying message of this year’s Transportation Short Course, hosted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and held on the Texas A&M University campus Oct. 10–12.
As part of its longstanding research partnership with TxDOT, TTI has hosted the Transportation Short Course after two Texas transportation pioneers (Dwight Greer and Gibb Gilchrist) began the collaboration between the two agencies. Their vision was formalized with the Cooperative Research Agreement in 1950.
“It was their belief that the then-Texas Highway Department and the state’s public universities should be valued partners in building the best and safest transportation system in the world,” TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen told nearly 2,400 attendees.
The primary purpose of the event is for research practitioners and department personnel to meet and share information about the latest research innovations that TxDOT engineers and planners can put into practice as part of their ongoing mission to maintain and develop the Texas transportation system. Meetings highlight the latest techniques and innovations in numerous transportation fields, including road and bridge construction, highway design, pavements, traffic operations, and planning. TxDOT also takes the opportunity to honor its employees, especially those who risked their lives in the previous year to help motorists. These deserving individuals receive TxDOT’s Extra Mile Awards.
Welcoming attendees during the opening session of the three-day event, Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young said he has been a long-time proponent of partnerships between states, universities and the private sector in order to improve the quality of life for the public.
“Texas is the only state in the country I’ve seen that has actually taken advantage of that, and you can see the results,” Young said. “You can see the innovations and the cutting-edge work that goes on to improve the quality of transportation. Texas has become a model for other states. This [the TxDOT/TTI collaboration] is one of those great partnerships.”
TxDOT Executive Director James M. Bass told the crowd that the department is about to begin a new era in transportation, thanks to the passage of Propositions 1 and 7, which will fund billions of dollars in new road projects over the next 10 years.
“I’m extremely proud of the work that we’ve done, and I’m looking forward to the work that we’ll do together,” Bass said, referring to TxDOT employees as “family.” Bass has worked at the agency since 1985 and was named executive director in 2015. “It’s now our turn to create the next generation of TxDOT employees that we will be talking about at future Short Courses. I look forward to that challenge, and let’s keep up the great work.”
Recently appointed Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan praised the TxDOT/TTI partnership as the state tackles transportation issues, especially congestion. “Let’s keep the innovative momentum going so we can deliver the transportation system that Texans have told us they want. Texas has set the standard for transportation,” Ryan said. “You have my support and appreciation.”
Next year, TxDOT will celebrate its 100th anniversary. “What was set in motion in 1917 has made a huge impact in the development of this state, its economy and its quality of life,” Christiansen told attendees. “The challenge for us now is to take that legacy and move it to the next 100 years.”