Executive director Amadeo Saenz and deputy executive director Steve Simmons both informed the agency of their retirement effective Aug. 31.
Simmons is a former district engineer for the Fort Worth area. He presided over the revamping of the I-30/I-35W mixmaster in Fort Worth, and the Loop 820/Texas 121/183 Northeast Interchange in Northeast Tarrant County.
Saenz rose through the agency's leadership ranks after his swift handling of the 2001 Queen Isabella Causeway collapse in South Padre Island. He was named executive director in 2007, but by then the agency was being widely criticized for promoting the controversial Trans Texas Corridor, and for miscalculating the funds available for construction in the state by $1 billion.
Both men notified the agency of their plans to retire Aug 31, spokeswoman Karen Amacker said.
"TxDot will continue to evolve and I recognize a need to clear a path for the next person fortunate enough to occupy the position of executive director," Saenz wrote to Deirdre Delisi, chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission, in a letter dated Monday. Saenz pledged to continue working to increase transportation funding during the ongoing legislative session, and to help with the transition of a new leadership style as recommended by the agency's restructure council.
"Throughout the course of his career, Amadeo has earned a reputation as a leader and coalition builder, and earned the respect and trust of his peers across the country, our partners here in Texas, and most importantly, his employees," Delisi said in a statement. "Amadeo has served his state with honor and integrity. TxDoT is a better agency today thanks to his leadership."
The departure of Saenz and Simmons could make it easier for transportation advocates to argue that more funding is needed to build highways, invest in high-speed rail and take other steps to ensure Texas keeps up with its seemingly recession-proof growth.
A key recommendation in the restructure council's report is that the executive leadership come from the outside of the transportation department, a break from the agency's tradition of promoting from within. However, Saenz and Simmons each make less than $200,000 a year, and advocates for change have argued that someone from the private sector would command a much higher salary. The legislature would need to approve any such salary boost.
The transportation department oversees about $6 billion to $8 billion worth of work each year, backed primarily by state and federal gasoline taxes, other appropriations by Congress and state vehicle registration fees.
-- Gordon Dickson, firstname.lastname@example.org