Former Transportation Secretary calls report â€˜blinding flash of the obviousâ€™
The message was clear from two committees reporting to the Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday – there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to the stateâ€™s infrastructure needs and the wants and needs for creation and maintenance of highways throughout the state are much greater than the stateâ€™s ability to finance them.
In addition to the committee reports, the Commission also heard an update on the Texas Department of Transportationâ€™s (TxDOT) ongoing modernization plan. â€œThe process is beginning to move forward,â€ said Eric Gleason, TxDOTâ€™s Director of Public Transportation. He said implementation of some of the projects is coming into focus and â€œthe pace is quickening.â€ However, Gleason, noted that human resource availability to put some of the recommendations into place timely while continuing to fulfill day-to-day operations of the agency is a concern.
Three members of the Strategic Research Program Advisory Committee testified before the Commission Thursday. According to Rick Collins, director of the Research and Technology Implementation Office at TxDOT, the committee is charged with making recommendations to TxDOT regarding research topics that should be explored relating to transportation in the state. Those research projects will be awarded to universities throughout the state who respond to an upcoming request for proposals. Through these topics and the research, the committee will help prepare the department for some of the challenges the state and TxDOT will face in the future.
The committee held its first meeting in August and told commissioners this week that they quickly realized there was a lack of sustainability for maintaining and creating new infrastructure.
Committee member Mary Peters, former U.S. Transportation Secretary, said the committeeâ€™s report might appear to be a â€œblinding flash of the obvious.â€ She said it would be important not to reinvent the wheel but to â€œbring data to bear and focus on where this industry and the state can get more moneyâ€ for its transportation infrastructure needs.
Another committee member, Ken Allen, told commissioners that as the committee was putting together its â€œwish listâ€ for research projects that might result in a better way to use transportation funding for more projects, it narrowed the scope to three subjects, which he said were â€œdeliberately kept very broad for the researchers.â€
Among the topics was what he called â€œdemand leveling,â€ or getting the most out of existing infrastructure, as well as innovative financing options and â€œmanaging the decline,â€ or prioritizing the use of limited funds. Regarding funding, Hall said the question becomes â€œhow to best spend the money we have,â€ which he said would have to be â€œspent incredibly wisely.â€
Similar messages were brought to the commission by Tim Brown, Bell County commissioner, who serves on the I-35 Advisory Committee.
Brown told the Commission that his group initially came up with little more than a list of projects. However, he said that illustrates that there is no one-size-fits-all solution because the solution changes from one geographic region to another.
Saying a variety of rail components will have to be part of the future solutions for the I-35 projects, the county commissioner said it became glaringly obvious that â€œweâ€™ve got to find some more ways of funding those projects.
â€œFunding seems to be the common denominator we keep coming back to,â€ he said. Brown noted that the committee came up with â€œappropriate solutions, but no funding stream.â€
The challenge for the committee, he said, is to â€œidentify what needs to be doneâ€ and then come back to try to find ways to fund it.
â€œTransportation is so important that weâ€™re going to have to get serious about funding,â€ said Brown.
In other action, the Transportation Commission took action to add Interstate 69 to the state highway system, allowing TxDOT officials to label the first Texas stretch of the nearly 1,000-mile interstate since I-69 received federal high-priority route designation more than a decade ago. This action will allow TxDOT to add the concurrent designation of I-69 to a 6.2-mile section of US 77 between I-37 and SH 44 in Nueces County without additional funding, right-of-way or construction because the existing highway already meets interstate standards.
Well Attended ICNA South Central Region Conference
Theme: Quran â€“ The Scripture That Saved The World
Sheikh Omer Suleiman Speaks at the Sixth Annual ICNA-MAS Conference at University of Houston
Thousands of Muslims from the US South Central Region (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas) attended the 6th Annual Conference of the Islamic Circle of North (ICNA), and the Muslim American Society (MAS) at the University of Houston, on Saturday October 22nd.
Theme of the conference was: Quran- The Scripture That Saved Humanity. A parallel Youth Conference was organized by Young Muslims (YM), on the subject of â€œPeer Pressure â€“ Peer Powerâ€. Prominent speakers and scholars spoke, including Sheikh Nauman Ali Khan, Sheikh Omer Suleiman, Imam Khalid Griggs, Qari Qasim Mazhar, Dr. Mohammad Yunus, Mustafa White, Hafiz Tauqeer Shah, Dr. Shahid Rafiq, Dr. Mohammad Shalaby.
Speakers were quite interactive and their presentations were practical, inspirational, and made the people happy.
Some of the subjects that were discussed and presented included: â€œIslamic Sharia: A Divine Legal Framework for a Prosperous Societyâ€; â€œSpeaking to Your Lordâ€; â€œQuran: Theory and Practiceâ€; â€œThe Vision & Missionâ€
In the Youth conference, the various themes that were touched included: â€œJumping on the Bandwagonâ€; â€œA change is gonna comeâ€; â€œWhat about you?â€; â€œTake-home Messageâ€; and â€œWill you be Missed?â€
At the eve of Eid-AL-Adha, the bazaar at the conference had many Islamic Garments and Gifts stalls.
By the Grace of God, a successful fundraising for ICNA was done by Sheikh Omer Suleiman, where around $100,000 were raised for the Learning, Dawah and Community Services funds of ICNA.
For more information, one can visit www.ICNASouth.Com