The TxDOT Update
News and Information from the Texas Department of Transportation

In this issue

  • TxDOT Hits the Ground Running in New Year
  • Houghton: 2011 El Pasoan of the Year
  • Truck Toll Promotion Extended
  • Chisholm Trail Parkway Underway
  • Commission Workshop, Meeting Set for Jan. 25-26
  • Chavez: Newsmaker of the Year
  • Rail Conference Starts Jan. 26
  • TxDOT Leadership Appointments
  • Motor Carrier Moved to TxDMV
  • I-35 Traveler Survey
  • We're Going Places!
  • Winter Weather Car Check
  • Statewide Podcasts
  • TN Online
  • Small Hr


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TxDOT Goals

  1. Prepare for the future
  2. Enhance safety
  3. Maintain the transportation system
  4. Relieve congestion
  5. Enhance connectivity
  6. Work with our partners to
    identify funding strategies

January 17, 2012

Editor's Note: Monday, Jan. 16 was Martin Luther King Day, so you are receiving the TxDOT Update today.


TxDOT Hits the Ground Running in New Year

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Houston District crews working to clear Beltway 8 collision scene.

A record-breaking snowfall in Midland, a big rig overturning on Beltway 8 North in Houston, an 18-wheeler crashing to a railroad bridge over SH 70 in Pampa, an 80-car pileup on a fog-washed SH 73 near Port Arthur and torrential rains shutting down SH 288 and other Houston roadways were among the crises TxDOT crews responded to early in the New Year.

When more than 10 inches of snow blanketed the Midland-Odessa area last week, TxDOT crews from the Odessa and surrounding districts moved in with snowplows, keeping I-20, SH 191, SH 302 and other roadways clear and safe. Houston District crews quickly mobilized on Jan. 5 when an 18-wheeler pulling two trailers jackknifed on Beltway 8 at JFK Boulevard and collided with the center lane lighting system.

With all main lanes closed for several hours, TxDOT emergency crews cleared and sanded the affected areas, and district public information officers fielded media calls throughout the day and kept the public informed about road closures via Twitter.

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Houghton: 2011 El Pasoan of the Year

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Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton

Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton has been named 2011 El Pasoan of the Year. Houghton was honored by the weekly newspaper El Paso, Inc. for his contributions to the community's economic growth. He was instrumental in securing approval for two key El Paso transportation initiatives: the $360 million Spur 601 project that led to the $5 billion expansion of Fort Bliss and the $80 million Transmountain Road improvement project to complete the city's outer loop. Also, El Paso Mayor John Cook recently presented Houghton with a special plaque in honor of his commitment to improving the state transportation system.

"Ted is a great El Pasoan. He is someone who is always thinking about our future, about how to make us competitive, about our assets and how to take full advantage of them, and, more importantly, about the families and people in the community. His work has been transformational," El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said in the El Paso, Inc. article honoring Houghton.

The El Paso native and owner of Houghton Financial Partners was first appointed to the Commission in 2003 and reappointed in 2009. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Houghton chairman in October 2011. He is the first El Paso resident to serve on the Commission.


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Truck Toll Promotion Extended

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TxDOT's truck toll promotion on SH 130 and SH 45SE has been extended through Jan. 25 after achieving initial program success. All truck tolls will remain $9 or less on the 56-mile bypass around Austin. The original two-week promotion was slated to end Jan. 4. Initial results showed that truck transactions increased more than 39 percent on both SH 130 and SH 45SE and indicated a 10-percent increase for passenger vehicles for the same period over the previous year. All motorists who choose to avoid traffic congestion through the Austin area and travel nonstop between Georgetown and Buda on the SH 130/SH 45SE toll bypass will pay the passenger vehicle (two-axle) toll rate. For trucks with four axles or more, this means a savings of more than 67 percent.

Read more »

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Chisholm Trail Parkway Under way

Construction recently began on the $1.6 billion Chisholm Trail Parkway with a late December groundbreaking on FM 1187 near Crowley. Slated for completion in 2014, the 28-mile toll road will provide a continuous route from downtown Fort Worth south to Cleburne, connecting southwest Tarrant and northwest Johnson counties. In the planning stages for more than 40 years, the corridor will help alleviate traffic congestion in the growing North Texas region. The project is a partnership of the North Texas Tollway Authority, TxDOT, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Tarrant and Johnson counties, the cities of Fort Worth, Burleson and Cleburne, and Union Pacific Railroad. Texas Transportation Commissioner William Meadows attended the ceremony.

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Commission Workshop, Meeting Set for Jan. 25-26

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The Texas Transportation Commission will convene for its monthly workshop and meeting Jan. 25-26 at 200 East Riverside Drive, Room 1-A.1, in Austin. The Commission will begin its workshop at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 to discuss various issues, including the agency's Modernization project.

On Jan. 26, the Commission will hold its meeting at 9 a.m. to consider action on several items, including authorizing the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority to assist in funding the Loop 375/ FM 659 intersection project through the city of El Paso's transportation reinvestment zone; approving the selection of a vendor to provide statewide toll system integration and maintenance of TxDOT toll facilities; and establishing fees for administering electronic toll collection customer accounts.

To watch workshop and/or meeting, click the banner on the home page.

Read more »

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Chavez: Newsmaker of the Year

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Fort Worth District Engineer Maribel Chavez

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently named Fort Worth District Engineer Maribel Chavez one of its 2011 DFW Newsmakers. Chavez was recognized for her guidance in the development of three crucial highway projects under way in the region: the $1 billion DFW Connector, the $1.6 billion Chisholm Trail Parkway and the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express.

“It was a banner year for transportation, and no one person can take credit — or blame — for it all. But a common denominator in those projects is Chavez,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Gordon Dickson said in his article. “Her name wasn't always in the lead of news stories about those projects, but behind the scenes she has gained a reputation as a tough negotiator.”

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Rail Conference Starts Jan. 26

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Creating and funding freight and passenger rail services in a tight economy will be among the topics explored at the 8th Annual Southwestern Rail Conference, set for Jan. 26-27, in the Grand Hall at historic Dallas Union Station. The only all-rail conference held each year in Texas is hosted by Texas Rail Advocates.

Presenters from the private and public sector will focus on national, state and regional freight and passenger rail issues. Bill Glavin, director of TxDOT's Rail Division, will be among the featured speakers. Registration is now open and a special discounted hotel rate is available at the Hyatt Regency - Downtown Dallas.

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TxDOT Leadership Appointments

TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson has announced several key leadership appointments in recent weeks. Russell Zapalac, former senior vice president and director of transportation at HDR's 17-state central region, is chief planning and project officer. Bob Kaufman, former senior manager for corporate affairs at Dell, Inc., is chief communications officer. Suzanne Mann, a 22-year TxDOT veteran, is director of the Office of Compliance and Ethics. Mann most recently served as an attorney in the department's Office of General Counsel. Scott Haywood, former director of corporate communications for Astrotech Corp., is Wilson's chief of staff.

Carlos Swonke, former senior project manager for Blanton & Associates, Inc., is director of the Environmental Affairs Division. Swonke had been with TxDOT for 11 years, including five years as manager of the Water Resources Section, before joining the private sector in 1998. Margo Richards, former director of tourism at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, is director of the Travel Information Division. Herman Horn, former chief diversity officer and director of equity and access for Texas State University-San Marcos, is director of the Office of Civil Rights.

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Motor Carrier Moved to TxDMV


On Jan. 1, TxDOT's Motor Carrier Division (MCD) became part of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV). The TxDOT Sunset Bill, passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature, transferred MCD operations and staff to TxDMV. TxDOT districts will continue to maintain road restrictions used to route oversize and overweight trucks for permit purposes.

View more »

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I-35 Traveler Survey


The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) is conducting an online survey of I-35 travelers to determine what information they like to receive about travel conditions, planning efforts and construction activities, how frequently they want that information and how they'd like to receive it. The survey results will help TxDOT and TTI determine how best to communicate with I-35 users about potential traffic headaches during the five-year construction project in Central Texas. The project, which is under way, will widen nearly 100-miles of interstate between Hillsboro and Salado from two to three lanes. The survey is anonymous. Participants must be at least 18.

Take the survey »

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We're Going Places!

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The 7th Annual Texas Transportation Forum kicks off in four weeks. The Forum, set for Feb. 15-17 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio, will feature a number of notable speakers and expert panelists discussing current transportation topics. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn will deliver the closing keynote address on Friday, Feb.17.

Monday, Feb. 6 is the last day of regular online registration (5 p.m., CST). On-site registration will be available during the Forum. Please check the Forum program for updates. Engineers attending the Forum can earn Professional Development Hours. Find out more here. Reserve your hotel room and register now for your seat at the table. We hope to see you in San Antonio next month!

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Winter Weather Car Check

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No one wants to break down in any season but especially not in cold or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition.


  • Visit your mechanic for a tune-up or other routine maintenance.
  • Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for any leaks, bad hoses or other needed part repairs or replacements.
  • If you plan to use snow tires have them installed now.

For more information »

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Statewide Podcasts

TxDOT produces a weekly Statewide Podcast to keep you updated on the latest transportation news and issues, and new podcast episodes are published every Friday on the TxDOT website,

In this week's episode, we have a conversation with former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt — recorded during the 2009 Texas Transportation Forum — about how the federal government encourages nationwide mobility projects. (This episode was originally aired in January 2009.) Episodes are also available on iTunes.

Listen to Podcast »

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TN Online

Read the latest issue of TN, TxDOT's bimonthly newsletter for employees »

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