Texas Transportation Commissioner outlines importance of joint effort in implementing congestion relief plan
Commissioner Bugg reminds AGC: "A plan without execution is just an hallucination."
Texas Transportation Commissioner J. Bruce Bugg Jr. mapped out the state's strategic plan for reducing traffic congestion while also emphasizing rural connectivity and safety Thursday during AGC's monthly membership lunch at the Hyatt Hotel.
The commissioner also appealed for the support from AGC of Texas members in meeting Gov. Greg Abbott's mandate to reduce the state's ever-increasing traffic congestion chokepoints.
Gov. Abbott appointed the San Antonio-based commissioner to head up the effort to reduce traffic congestion, which is most severe in the state's largest metro areas: Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Austin; and San Antonio. Those five communities account for 65 percent of the state's population and 97 of the top 100 traffic chokepoints, according to a recent Texas Transportation Institute study.
The congestion task force has been meeting monthly for nearly one year and includes 25 TxDOT executives and district engineers from those metropolitan areas. The task force is now ready for action, or, as Commissioner Bugg aptly noted: "A plan without execution is just an hallucination."
The team began its mission by targeting priority projects, estimating the cost, establishing a reasonable construction timeline and identifying potential impediments, such as right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation. The Texas Clear Lanes initiative received $1.3 billion in February to launch the congestion reduction effort.
"With the new funding, we need the AGC members help to execute. This is where you come in," Commissioner Bugg told AGC members, emphasizing their important and on-going partnership with TxDOT.
"We need your help. We can't do this without you all," he said.
The Texas Transportation Commission approved a $70 billion, 10-year Unified Transportation Program at its Aug. 25 meeting.
** $24.2 billion has been allocated for maintenance, bridges and safety: "The first thing you do is take care of the assets you have," Commissioner Bugg said.
** $6.6 billion will address rural connectivity projects.
** $28.9 billion will address congestion.
"If we don't address the big problems of today, they will just become bigger problems down the road," the commissioner said. "And that will negatively impact economic development and job growth."
If not addressed, the state's population growth will seriously erode the ability of motorists and commerce to navigate through the urban areas. The state's population stood at 27.7 million people in early 2015. By 2050, state demographer Lloyd Potter projects the state's population will have soared to 54 million, Commissioner Bugg told AGC members: "That's a doubling in 35 years. Where are all those people going to go?"
TxDOT and the state demographer's office have plotted that growth pattern. Unsurprisingly, the growth will show up in the five urban areas already burdened by excessive congestion.
Austin and San Antonio will grow toward each other just as Dallas and Fort Worth have done in recent decades, Commissioner Bugg said, noting the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex areas will simply become even denser.
Texans already are reacting to traffic congestion as reflected in highway funding ballot initiatives in 2014 and 2015. Nearly 80 percent of Texas voters supported Prop 1 in 2014 and more than 83 percent approved Prop 7 last year.
"We all have a mandate from the Texas voters to address congestion," he said. "People are sick and tired of getting stuck in their car on I-35 and other congestion chokepoints around the state."
That's why, he said, Gov. Abbott has made congestion relief a top priority and state lawmakers responded to his call last year by increasing highway spending by $4 billion a year without raising taxes, fees, debt or adding toll roads.
The congestion relief project now is under the supervision of Commissioner Bugg, a former Eagle Scout. He is also chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southwest Bancshares, Inc., a Texas bank holding company for The Bank of San Antonio, and chairman of The Bank of San Antonio; and chairman, president and chief executive officer of Texas Hill Country Bancshares, Inc., a Texas bank holding company for Texas Hill Country Bank.
In addition, Bugg also serves as chairman and chief executive officer of Argyle Investment Co., L.L.C., a private investment firm. Bugg is chairman and trustee of The Tobin Endowment, a private charitable foundation, in San Antonio, Texas and chairman and co-founder of the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation, owner of the new $203 million Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio. Bugg currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the board of trustees of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and chairman of the Endowment Investment Committee and a member of the board of directors of The Santa Fe Opera in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
"We have a big job ahead of us - and not only do we need to maintain our state highway system and our bridges and safety; not only do we need to have the rural connectivity - but the big job ahead of us is congestion relief in the state of Texas," he told the AGC audience. "Help us eradicate this congestion that we all hear so much about."
Click HERE for Commissioner Bugg's power-point presentation.