The historic relationship between Texas Transportation Institute and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was the focus of Agency Director Dennis Christiansen’s remarks to the 82nd Annual Transportation Short Course, Oct. 14-15, held at Texas A&M University.
“The universities in this state take great pride in the relationship we have with TxDOT,” Christiansen, the Short Course co-chair, told this year’s 2,200 attendees. “The vision expressed by Mr. Greer [Dewitt Greer, longtime engineer-director of the department] in the 1940s — that the universities should be valued partners with TxDOT in building the best and safest system of roadways in the country — has long been a reality.”
Christiansen cited the 1948 cooperative agreement between TxDOT and the universities, which established the longtime research relationship. “This document, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, remains the envy of the nation,” he said. “It created a research program that, according to TxDOT statistics, produces results with a benefit/cost ratio well in excess of 5 to 1.”
Christiansen told the crowd that having the TxDOT family as guests on campus “is one of the high points of our year.”
The opening session began with an uplifting, team-spirited video of TxDOT’s work during Hurricane Ike, which hit the Texas coast Sept. 12. The video chronicled the massive TxDOT preparation and cleanup efforts by employees in dealing with the challenges of the third-most expensive hurricane in the nation’s history. The video was followed by a campus welcome from Brett Giroir, vice chancellor for research for The Texas A&M University System.
In her first comments to a Transportation Short Course, newly appointed chair of the Texas Transportation Commission Deirdre Delisi spoke to the crowd in a video message. “We are on the precipice of a new era in transportation,” she said. “We cannot only keep up with, but we must exceed, expectations. Transportation is integral to the economy.” Referring to recent high rankings by publications about Texas infrastructure, Delisi acknowledged that TxDOT has been receiving some national recognition.
At the end of the session, TxDOT honored three employees with its annual “Extra Mile Award,” which is given to workers who risk their own lives to save the lives of others. The employees received standing ovations following details of their heroic efforts. All TxDOT award winners were honored at a luncheon following the opening session. Among the special guests participating in the luncheon were Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney and his wife, Lou Ann, and Kem Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of engineering.