The Texas Transportation Commission is meeting today in Austin, and at the helm for a final time is executive director Amadeo Saenz, who is retiring at the end of the month after leading the agency through turbulent times.
Saenz has been the chief since 2007, but during that short period he guided TxDot through two sunset reviews at the hands of an unfriendly state Legislature.
Also retiring is his No. 2 man, Steve Simmons, the former Fort Worth district engineer.
Chairwoman Deirdre Delisi recounted one of Saenz' proudest moments. It was back in 2001, when he was a Pharr district engineer, and the Queen Isabella Causeway collapsed. The disaster left no way for motorists to get from the Texas mainland to South Padre Island.
"Amadeo pulled together resources from across the state and had the causeway repaired in under two months," Delisi said.
The five-member commission, which meets monthly, also got a briefing on its plans to lease more highway projects to private developers. Specifically, the next two projects on the block are Grand Parkway in Houston and Interstate 35E in Dallas/Lewisville/Denton.
Planning for those projects is progressing, although the state transportation department essentially can't get too far along on its I-35E planning until the North Texas Tollway Authority waives its "primacy" -- its authority under state law to have first dibs on any toll-related project in the four largest North Texas counties.
The so-called public-private partnerships, or comphrensive development agreements (say those names five times, fast!) are being used to speed up work on Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Tarrant County (the North Tarrant Express), Texas 114/121 in Grapevine (DFW Connector) and I-635 in Dallas (LBJ Express).