Amadeo Saenz is now the man in charge at the Texas Department of Transportation. The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday selected him unanimously as the new executive director. The 29-year department veteran is the first Hispanic leader in the agency's 90-year history, officials said.
He's been assistant executive director for more than five years. Prior to that, he was district engineer in Pharr. He was credited with quickly rebuilding the Queen Isabell Causeway after it was struck by a barge and collapsed in 2001.
He's a native of Hebbronville and still lives there on a small cattle ranch ... when he's not in Austin.
FORT WORTH — Amtrak celebrated its 500,000th passenger on the Heartland Flyer route from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City Thursday. Marilea Hoffmann, 80, of Oklahoma City received a cake, embroidered blanket and a spa treatment from Hilton Fort Worth.
Hoffmann arrived at Fort Worth’s Intermodal Transportation Center on a routine trip to see daughter Nancee Hoffmann of Keller. She’s been a regular on the train since shortly after service began in ’99.
What does she like best about it? "The scenery between here and there is beautiful."
An Austin judge has ruled in favor of the Texas Department of Transportation, and declined an anti-toll road group's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the use of public money to campaign for toll roads.
The San Antonio anti-toll group, known as Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, argues that it's against state law to use public money for activities such as lobbying Congress.
But Travis County District Judge Orlinda Naranjo declined the request Monday.
A hearing on the lawsuit itself is scheduled for next week, a state official said.
Wanna check out a video I had a lot of fun making? See the link below. It's called Street Smart: Coffee Car Talk. I took several coffee mugs for a test drive, to see which one would hold up best under commuting conditions.
I shot the video on a Saturday afternoon last spring. My kids helped with the camera and lighting.
An anti-toll San Antonio group known as Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom is asking for a restraining order to stop the Texas Department of Transportation from lobbying Congress to toll interstates. The group contends in its Travis County District Court lawsuit that it's against state law to use public funds for what amounts to campaigning. "... It's clear they've not only crossed the line into illegal lobbying, but they leaped over it," says TURF founder Terri Hall. Read more: www.texasturf.org
TxDot spokesman Chris Lippincott says there's a difference between lobbying and educating the public. "For quite some time now TxDot has heard calls from elected leaders and the driving public to explain what we are doing to improve mobility in our state and why we are doing it. ... It's not possible to meet our state's transportation goals without public awareness and public involvement."
PLANO — Arlington businessman Victor Vandergriff officially joined the North Texas Tollway Authority Wednesday as Tarrant County’s second representative. He pledged to remember advice from his father, former Tarrant County judge Tom Vandergriff: "He stressed to me — regionalism, regionalism, regionalism."
Tarrant County appointee Bill Meadows of Fort Worth also will remain on the tollway board, which builds and manages toll roads. State lawmakers this year expanded the board to nine members — two each from Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin counties. Ninth member Bob Shepard of Weatherford was re-appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to represent outlying areas.
Other new members who took the helm Wednesday:
* Former Garland Mayor Bob Day of Dallas County
*Former Lewisville council member Mike Nowels of Denton County
Driving conditions have deteriorated more dramatically in Dallas-Fort Worth than in any other metro area since 1982, a report released today shows.
North Texans waste an average of 58 hours a year — nearly 2 1/2 days — while stuck in traffic, according to an urban mobility report by the Texas Transportation Institute. The study by the institute at Texas A&M University uses traffic data from 2005, the most recent year available.
Twenty-five years ago, the average Metroplex traveler lost only 10 hours a year.
"If you look at the last 10 years, the population of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington has gone up about a million people ... so the fact that congestion is on the rise isn’t a surprise," said study co-author David Schrank.
Overall, D-FW ranks fifth in the nation in terms of wasted time on the road. In Los Angeles, drivers lose 72 hours a year. Drivers in San Francisco, Washington and Atlanta all lose 60 hours a year. But none of those cities experienced as dramatic a quarter-century change as the Metroplex.
Wasted time is considered time spent on the road in poor driving conditions — stop-and-go traffic — and does not include the time motorists would normally spend driving at or near the speed limit in good conditions.
The thorough report, which is released every two years, analyzes congestion in all 437 urban areas of the U.S., and provides detailed rankings for the 85 largest areas.
In North Texas, the situation would be much worse if the Metroplex hadn’t built high-occupancy vehicle lanes, installed highway cameras to track troubled areas and trained police to clear accidents quicker. Those kinds of improvements save motorists about 10 percent in commuting costs, including wasted fuel and lost productivity, Schrank said.
"The investment in improvements is really making a difference," he said, adding that the estimated savings to the region is $215 million a year.
The study also concludes that if public transportation such as buses and trains were not available in the Metroplex, another $102 million a year would have to be spent accommodating transit riders on the roads.
Despite those savings, North Texas is still losing about $2.7 billion a year to congestion.
The study recommends that populated areas across the U.S. not only continue to improve existing roads, but also add new lanes.
"Capacity is still needed," Schrank said.
The study is the most detailed to date, Schrank said. Because technology has made it easier to track real-time traffic, many figures from previous urban mobility reports have been updated.
*Nationally, 2.9 billion gallons of fuel are wasted because of congestion. That’s enough to fill 58 supertanker ships.
*Gridlock costs the U.S. economy $78 billion, including wasted fuel and lost job hours.
*In North Texas, the number of vehicle miles driven on freeways increased to 57.3 million in 2005, compared with 49.3 million in 2001. Meanwhile, the number of trips taken on public transportation or in carpools decreased to 82 million in 2005, compared to 85 million in 2001.
*So-called rush-hour traffic in Dallas-Fort Worth now lasts for 7.6 hours a day, compared with 7.2 hours in 2001 and 2.9 hours in 1982.
Word on the street is that Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and state Rep. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, led a spirited discussion Wednesday morning during a quarterly meeting of the 35W Coalition, a group that advocates gridlock relief from downtown Fort Worth to the Tarrant-Denton County line.
Hancock was explaining why many state lawmakers don't want to raise the state's 8.25 percent sales tax cap for transportation, even if voters in a metro area such as North Texas approve the increase in a referendum. Basically, they believe the sales tax should be reserved for state purposes.
That's a sore subject with Whitley, who noted that state decision-makers won't let local voters raise their own taxes, but also won't open up the state purse to pay for North Texas transportation needs.
Other 35W members jumped to Hancock's defense, noting that he was among the lawmakers who backed the proposal for a sales tax election, and that just because he was explaining the sentiment in Austin doesn't mean he agrees with it.