Connecting you with Texas
By: J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., Texas Transportation Commission Chairman
Since being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015, it has been my great honor to serve Texas, first as commissioner, and since 2017, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.
Never has that service meant more to me than during this past year. Despite a global pandemic that presented a historically challenging time for our state and our economy, the 12,000 women and men of TxDOT proved their selfless dedication to our essential transportation system. While many people worked remotely, our team continued to build and maintain our state’s roadways to ensure critical medical supplies and groceries made it to their destinations.
As Chairman, the task I put before our people at TxDOT has been both simple and arduous: “Execute, execute and execute.” And that means progress. We have kept our promise to Texans, who in 2014 and 2015, voted overwhelmingly in support of additional funding for transportation. We have focused on the most effective ways to advance transportation projects, and use precious taxpayer dollars wisely to get roads built where and as soon as possible when they are needed.
Last summer, the Texas Transportation Commission adopted our 10-year Unified Transportation Program (UTP) with $74.7 billion worth of projects that will guide transportation development for the next decade statewide. The need to find a balance in distributing this funding in our large and diverse state is a top priority for us.
For instance, in funding projects in our TxDOT districts, even though rural Texas has only 10 percent of the state’s population, rural TxDOT districts could receive 16.7 percent or $12.5 billion of all the funding in the UTP to enhance connectivity for goods and services throughout the state. Urban districts could receive 19 percent of all the UTP funding or $14.2 billion, And, metro TxDOT districts could receive 47.7 percent or $35.6 billion of all the funding in the UTP.
Statewide we currently have more than $24 billion worth of projects under construction – the largest in our state’s history. This past fiscal year alone, we approved more than $7 billion in contracts and our payments to contractors increased 26 percent year over year. While all these projects are aimed at improving mobility, they are also designed to keep drivers safe.
Additionally, we are addressing our state’s most congested areas through the commission’s congestion relief initiative, Texas Clear Lanes. This effort, aimed at providing congestion relief through non-tolled projects, is focused at tackling the biggest traffic chokepoints in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio – TxDOT’s five metro districts. So far, we have completed six major Texas Clear Lanes projects; have 19 other projects under construction; and 18 more in the planning stages.
In Austin, we cut the ribbon on two projects—an innovative roundabout with lanes that enable drivers to bypass a once-clogged intersection at I-35 and 51st Street, and a project at I-35 and Oltorf Street that rebuilt the bridge, added U-turns and northbound braided entrance and exit ramps.
Most importantly, the Texas Transportation Commission and the Austin region came together to allocate funding for the I-35 Capital Express Program, a massive reconstruction of I-35 that includes the #1 most congested roadway segment in Texas through downtown Austin. Dirt will start turning on this momentous effort in 2022.
As we head into the 87th Texas Legislature, we will be navigating new circumstances and addressing challenges as our state faces budget deficits. We don’t know yet how these budgetary issues may affect our agency, but we do know we won’t sacrifice safety or production. TxDOT is committed to giving Texans our absolute best, now and into the future.
“Connecting You With Texas” is TxDOT’s mission. And that means making the best use of every taxpayer dollar to build and maintain a transportation system that connects every Texan safely, efficiently and effectively to what matters most – family, jobs, healthcare, economic opportunities and much, much more.