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April 29, 2010 Meeting Transcript

Texas Department of Transportation Commission Meeting

Ballroom CDE
Hotel Elegante
2355 I-10 South
Beaumont, Texas

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Ted Houghton, Jr., Acting Chair
Fred Underwood
William Meadows


Amadeo Saenz, Executive Director
Steve Simmons, Deputy Executive Director
Angie Parker, Office of General Counsel
Roger Polson, Executive Assistant to the
Deputy Executive Director


MR. HOUGHTON: I think we'll get started. Good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

MR. HOUGHTON: Oh, man, what a lively crowd. Thank you all for being here today. It is 9:03 a.m., and I'd like to call the regular April 2010 meeting of the Texas Transportation Commission to order. Note for the record that public notice of this meeting, containing all items on the agenda, was filed with the Office of Secretary of State at 3:33 p.m. on April 20, 2010.

Before we begin today, if you would all take a moment to take your pagers, cell phones and other electronic devices and put them in the silent mode, we would appreciate that.

It has been a practice over the years to take the commission meeting on the road, our roadshow, out of Austin, and I call it Mecca or Center of the Universe, I don't know, depending on what's politically correct, and get out here where the real people live and hear what people have to say. And we've been trying to do this for a couple of years but Mother Nature has intervened on several times with hurricanes, and before hurricane season started in June, is it, Randy, they have hurricane season start out here. We wanted to get this thing in, slide it in and come to Beaumont, and we thank you all for having us.

And I'd like to thank the people of Beaumont and Jefferson County who have been showing us around. We had dinner with our employees last night and we had a wonderful time, and we toured the Port of Beaumont which is a tremendous asset for this part of the State of Texas. And I'd like to thank the TxDOT employees for their hospitality and the hard work that they have exhibited during this and making us comfortable and welcome during our visit today.

And I'd also like to thank the citizens who are viewing this meeting via the web, and we call it the Worldwide Web, there's so much interest in what we do, and we are streaming live today. We'd also like to make an archive of the webcast available on the website and it will be within the next 24 hours.

Now, as our custom is, we will open with comments from the commission members. There are two other than myself today, Commissioner Bill Meadows from Fort Worth and Commissioner Fred Underwood from it says South Plains, but I think that's known as Lubbock, and welcome, gentlemen. Bill.

MR. MEADOWS: Well, thank you, Commissioner Houghton, or I guess I should say Dean Houghton. He was introduced as the dean of the commission this morning, and I'm not sure exactly what that signifies, but I at least know that we need to afford you a greater level of respect than we might normally do. So thank you very much, Dean.

(General laughter.)

MR. MEADOWS: I, too, would like to echo Commissioner Houghton's comments, specifically with regard to thanks to a couple of different groups. First of all, the port. We had a really brief but, I think, very comprehensive tour of the facility yesterday and I think we came away with a greater appreciation of the importance of that port facility to the economy of not only this region but the entire State of Texas, and that's just helpful for us to see. The Chamber reception following that was really appreciated, the opportunity to meet some of the business leadership of this community and to recognize the outstanding work that they do to keep this economy strong.

Appreciation to our staff, the TxDOT staff, who really do make it happen. Randy, that was a great job last night, you and all your people, it was a great dinner, and the Beaumont District can be very proud of the work that it does and the staff needs to know how much we recognize and appreciate their good work.

Being on the road is our opportunity to look, to listen and to learn. That's harder for some of us than it might seem. But it is an opportunity for us to really see our facilities, the infrastructure that we have here, to understand about needs and challenges, just a good opportunity for us to meet the people in the community. Again, thank you all very much.

One last thing I have to add, a special thanks to the Good Lord, in partnership with our landscape folks. I happened to be in the Hill Country last week and that abundance of rainfall and the work that our people do along the right of way, the wildflowers are just spectacular. So thank you very much.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I'd like to associate myself with my colleagues' remarks and thank our staff and people and the community of Beaumont. It's impressive how you work well together and we appreciate all your hard work to the men and women here, and thank you very much.

MR. HOUGHTON: At this time I'd like to note that Commissioner Ned Holmes of Houston could not be with us today due to some international travel that he had scheduled some time ago, and Chair Deirdre Delisi, who is back in Austin with her new baby which she gave birth to back in March, so I would expect that she is listening on the internet stream today, she makes sure that we stay on the straight and narrow, gentlemen, and we look forward to seeing her and Commissioner Holmes back in Austin next month.

Let me remind anybody and everyone that would like to speak today that we ask them to complete a speaker's card and that was at the registration table in the lobby. There are two cards: one is yellow for an agenda item, one is blue for the open comment period.

Now, as a custom, prior to the agenda we are going to let the local and county and state officials who host us have a chance to talk about their community, and I'd like to turn time over at this point to Randy Redmond. Excuse me, protocol, I was just reminded of protocol. State Representative Mike Hamilton, who is with us today, I saw him at breakfast. Representative Hamilton, you get to tee it up and start this meeting. Welcome.

MR. HAMILTON: Well, it's good to start off with y'all, since we do write the budget and it helps out a lot. I just want to tell you all thank you very much for coming, thank you very much for the roadshow. We know how it is and we appreciate you getting out of Austin, I think it does a wonderful job if you get out in the state and see what's going on instead of sitting in the buildings in Austin and just concentrating on that. So we want to thank you very much for coming out and seeing what's going on.

And I want to also tell you that you have a very good base of employees down here in South East Texas, both in the Beaumont plant and the Orange plant that do a great job with assisting us any time we need it. They work real hard to help us with constituents that need help on road problems they're doing, both in Orange and in Beaumont, and I just want to brag on them a little bit. Randy Redmond and his crew are doing an excellent job.

So welcome to South East Texas and thank you very much. We look forward to working with you on the budget too.

MR. HOUGHTON: Absolutely. Thank you very much. Noted on the budget.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Now let me get back to where I was headed. At this time I'd like to have Beaumont District Engineer Randy Redmond come forward with his presentation to the commission and to the audience. Randy.

MR. REDMOND: Thank you, commissioners. Appreciate you being here. Yesterday was really a fun time. Thank you for coming out and spending some time with our employees last night, and thank you so much for the kind words you have expressed about our employees. I'm really proud of our staff here in the Beaumont District, they're part of my family.

And another big part of my family is the local leadership here and we have such good leaders in the Beaumont District, and to kind of open this thing up, I'm going to ask a couple of our champions to come up, it's going be Mayor Becky Ames from the City of Beaumont, and she'll be followed by Mayor Deloris "Bobbie" Prince from the City of Port Arthur.

MAYOR AMES: Thank you, Randy. Good morning. We welcome you to Beaumont and appreciate all the kind words that you've had about our city. We have a lot of great things going on here and I'm very happy that you've had the chance to see some of it. And they say third time is a charm, I understand you tried to come, Rita hit, and tried to come again and Ike hit. Well, you figured it out and came before June 1, but I think that you wouldn't have to worry because I know that we're not going to have any hurricanes this year.

(General laughter.)

MAYOR AMES: But really, I do appreciate you coming and getting out of Austin, as State Representative Hamilton said, and coming here to Beaumont because we do appreciate you. And as you said earlier, so glad that you visited the port, it's one of our jewels, gems in the City of Beaumont and we're so happy to have them here. And welcome to everyone from out of town. Hotel occupancy taxes are good and we're really glad that you are here. Welcome from the bottom of our hearts. And you know, I've heard a lot about hospitality and that's what we're known for around here, so we're glad that you're able to experience that. Thanks so much.

MR. HOUGHTON: Mayor, thank you.

MAYOR PRINCE: Good morning, and welcome to Jefferson County. I am from Port Arthur so I am going to represent Jefferson County this morning. I want to thank you all so much for being here.

We're excited about some of the works that you're doing because part of it is being done in the City of Port Arthur. This afternoon at 1:30, and we're having good weather for this, we declared last year, Becky is declaring no hurricanes this year and I'm taking her word for it, but this afternoon we're having wonderful weather, at 1:30 we're having the ribbon-cutting on Highway 365 near West Port Arthur Road for the widening of that stretch of highway. It's going to be advantages to mid Jefferson County residents.

And I've been working with Randy Redmond and his staff, John Barton, Judge Griffith, I want to thank you all so much for all of your efforts in making certain that this project came about. So if you all here at that time, I certainly invite you to the ribbon-cutting, the Chamber is preparing for it as we speak. And again, we want to thank you and we want to welcome you to this area.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you very much.

MR. REDMOND: Thank you, Mayors. Again, it's great for the commissioners to be here in South East Texas.

We have a video that's going to give you a little taste of our beautiful countryside and kind of some things that are going on here.

(Whereupon, the video was shown.)

MR. REDMOND: I want to thank Marc Shepherd for putting that video together for us, he spent a lot of time and effort, and all the participants in it. Great job, Marc.

Next we're going to maybe go over -- that was kind of a big overview of our district, now we're going to go over kind of some project-specific locations that we're kind of proud of.

Who we are. Of course, we're an eight-county district, we're members of two different MPOs, we have our JOHRTS MPO which is our urban MPO which is Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties in the southeast, and then Chambers and Liberty counties on our western side of our district are members of the HGAC. And then our rural counties include Tyler, Jasper and Newton which are all members of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments.

As the video said, we have about 6,700 square miles, 551,000 population. Of course, being in an area that averages more than four feet of rain a year requires significant drainage features; we have over 1,500 bridges within the district.

Interstate 10 serves as the major east-west mobility corridor for the district. As such, the local leadership has identified the improvement and expansion of this facility as the number one need for this area. We currently have two projects nearing completion in Orange County, totaling approximately $150 million, and another Economic Stimulus reconstruction project that will begin next month in Orange County for about $38 million.

We have two projects in Chambers County on I-10, totaling approximately $135 million. The one you saw on the video with Dave Collins is a Trinity River bridge project anticipated to be completed in early 2012, the contractor is hoping to finish even sooner than that. And we are nearing completion of a six-lane expansion project there in Chambers County from Wallisville to Hankamer.

Another big mobility project for South East Texas is the State Highway 105 Cleveland relief route. In fact, we had a partner meeting with our contractor two days ago for the second segment of the project and construction on it will start next month. This project is funded through Prop 14.

Another Prop 14 project in Liberty County is expansion of State Highway 146 from Dayton to the Chambers County line. This project is actually broken up into two segments, but when completed will really enhance the hurricane evacuation from our coastal areas.

The expansion of FM 365 in Jefferson County is the project that Mayor Prince spoke on earlier. It's a project that the City of Port Arthur and Jefferson County ha partnered to provide funding for design services in addition to the traditional right of way and utility participation. This ARRA project let this month and the ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for this afternoon following today's action on contract award.

These numerous projects nearing completion, under construction or soon to be under construction will provide significant enhancements to the area's mobility, but our local transportation partners have identified many other important needs. One of major significance is the replacement of the Neches River bridge on I-10 at the Jefferson-Orange county line.

MR. HOUGHTON: Randy, can you stop right there? Last night at your district they had pictures from years past and one picture that I saw looked curious that looked to me like that was the bridge that was replacing the previous bridge maybe what, 50 years ago?

MR. REDMOND: Yes, sir, and this is the exact location over the Neches River and the old bridge that was in the picture was the old US 90 bridge, so yes.

MR. HOUGHTON: So you're replacing this bridge?


MR. HOUGHTON: So 50 years later, amazing.

MR. REDMOND: It served its function, and sometime 20-30 years ago, I guess probably 30 years ago we did some widening on it. The picture we saw was original construction, we came back in 30 years ago, did some widening on it, and now it's time for it to go to rest.

MR. HOUGHTON: Interesting. Thank you, Randy.

MR. REDMOND: And the problem we're having is the deck is deteriorating. The bridge is safe; it's not going to fall down, but its constant maintenance issues with the deck. We keep getting potholes, basically, in the concrete deck, so the first step towards replacement and relocation of the bridge is the relocation of multiple utility lines currently attached to the bridge. We have a lot of communications lines that have been strung to the bridge underneath it. We have partnered with the utility owners for a joint project to provide a 36-inch conduit underneath the Neches River that will allow for the individual conduits to which run the various communication lines.

So this summer we'll be letting a project that's a 3,600-foot bore starting on the Jefferson County side and ending on the Orange County side, bore underneath the river. I think our elevation, once we taper it down, is about minus 110-foot elevation, we're going deep, and it's going to be very interesting. That project is actually on the agenda for commission action today. So the utility project will let this summer and then the bridge project is scheduled for 2012, we hope to move it up if we can get those utilities moving sooner.

A project very important to the citizens of Beaumont is the expansion of Concord Road. This project has received federal high priority funding and the city has currently purchased some right of way. This project is tentatively scheduled to let in late FY 2011 or FY 2012.

Planning efforts are near completion for environmental clearance for the continuation of six lanes of Interstate 10 through Orange County. This project is top priority for the JOHRTS MPO and will be ready to go as funding becomes available.

Other major mobility needs include expansion of Interstate 10 from Winnie to Beaumont, and the improvements to the Interstate 10 and US 69 interchange which you came through last night coming from the hotel up to our office, and it was six o'clock so traffic had kind of slowed down a little bit there, but it's one of our big backup areas.

Also US 69 North is in need of additional relief. Planning efforts have been initiated for improvements from I-10 to Lumberton. The video hit on a re-striping job we're planning to do this fall in Lumberton. Additional planning efforts have been ongoing for a couple of decades for a US 69 corridor stretching from Lumberton to Lufkin and a lot of that's on new location, railroad right of way that we bought in the mid '90s.

FM 92 is an extension project in Tyler County that has been in the planning stages for several years. Completion of this project could provide additional relief during hurricane evacuations.

A couple of bridges out of our 1,500 that are in need of replacement with some historical significance, one is US 90 at B.A. Steinhagen near Dam B, and the other is US 63 over the Sabine River at the Texas-Louisiana state line in Newton County.

Vidor Loop is also a project of significant local interest. A draft environmental document is nearing completion and the locals have worked many years trying to get this project going.

Of course, US 59 near Cleveland continues to see increased traffic. Houston District is nearing completion of their expansion project and they'll bring it up to the Beaumont District line, six lanes up to that to Cleveland, and we've got to continue to work on efforts there.

The biggest hurdle seems to always come down to funding. As you can see by this chart, FY 2011 will be our lowest letting since FY 2002.

In addition to transportation, we have developed partnerships with our local governments related to hurricane cleanup. In the Beaumont District alone, we spent over $50 million in debris cleanup following Hurricane Ike, and I think you'll see some good presentations later on our efforts there.

We have also established great partnerships with other TxDOT Districts. During Hurricane Ike the efforts given by our sister districts were outstanding. When emergencies arise, there is not a better family than our TxDOT family, but that goes much further than emergencies. San Antonio and Dallas districts have specialty bridge crews that come help us quite frequently on bridge needs, and Houston and Lubbock districts are currently helping us on some project development needs.

Marc is great on getting out on the various most common and used social media; we use blogs, Twitter, Facebook.

As we've hit on again and again, Beaumont District, we're very proud of our TxDOT family, we have dedicated employees with great attitudes. Beaumont District employees always go that extra mile, willing to sacrifice their personal needs.

Again, thanks for sticking with us for the third round and bearing through Mother Nature's attempts to distract us.

Next I'm going to ask Chambers County Judge Sylvia to come up and say a few words, and he'll be followed by Tyler County Judge Blanchette, and followed by Orange County Judge Thibodeaux, and then I'll come up and take any questions.

JUDGE SYLVIA: Good morning, commissioners. I know there's a lot of folks wondering why I have a pirate patch, but I'm going to tell you. Last Tuesday, myself and my county engineer, Don Brannon, who is here this morning, were going down to what's lovingly called the Ike Dike Committee meeting with other judges, and as I was traveling down TxDOT roads and going around through 124 and 87 over to Galveston, my vision started kind of messing up and I cleaned my sunglasses, I washed my windshield, and things weren't right, I was seeing two cars coming at me and one building looked like two until I got close to it, and I saw one of Randy's crews working and it looked like they were working twice as fast, so I knew I had a real problem.

(General laughter.)

JUDGE SYLVIA: I went to the doctor the next day and had tests run and everything seems to be fine, but the doctor said, Has this ever happened to you before? I said, No, sir, not in a long time and never when I was sober.

(General laughter.)

JUDGE SYLVIA: Chambers County recognizes the importance of the decisions and policies that you make as TxDOT commissioners. We're thankful for the many projects throughout the Beaumont District, but especially in Chambers County. I-10, SH 61 at Trinity River bridge, those additional lanes that Randy talked about are very helpful and important, but most importantly, the frontage roads bridges across Turtle Bayou which has added a much needed safety feature in that area.

The I-10 bridge is the same age I am, and you know, I've got two new knees and my eyes are failing, so I guarantee you it has some problems. Originally constructed in the mid 1950s, the four-lane bridge over the Trinity River dutifully carried many a vehicle to and from Houston. By the mid 1990s, you never knew when you might encounter a missing chunk of concrete, something popped up out of it. The construction of the new bridge has now begun and we look forward to the added capacity and safety.

SH 65, FM 562, SH 61, FM 565 and FM 2354, these widening projects, once very narrow roads that I travel on, I live off one of them, and my kids travel on, those three-foot sections added on both sides, you wouldn't believe what a difference this made. The 9-1-1 signage, it took a while to get to South East Texas, it seems like, but it's been a great advantage for us and especially the emergency responders.

The bridge replacement program, we really appreciate the new on-system bridges throughout the county and also the off-system; it's been a tremendous help to us. Over the past 25 years we've done ten bridges.

FM 1409 pass-through project, we want to thank you for the opportunity to possibly build that and place this rural connector on the state highway system upon completion. The west side of our county is growing like crazy, and like I said in the video, we've got to work together to make things happen now.

Hurricane Ike cleanup, that was major for us. We're a small county, 30,000 people, $25 million a year budget and we get 13.6 million cubic yards of debris from Galveston County, I wanted to send the Galveston County judge a bill but I didn't figure it would do any good. We needed some help, and in between FEMA and other agencies and TxDOT, we got it, and I just want to tell you how much we appreciate it.

The district engineers, the last thing, Randy Redmond and his predecessor, John Barton have made a vast improvement in the line of communications with Chambers County. Before John, you know, I didn't even really know who my district engineer was, and I've been a commissioner since '93 and judge since '97, and you might see the district engineer, you might not, maybe a year in between visits, you might have to call him if you needed anything, but it seemed like they were just never around. But since John, and it's continued with Randy, it's not unusual to hear from the district engineer several times a year, once a month, and we really appreciate those lines of communication.

I heard Randy say a while ago, I really appreciate the commission being here, but man, I'll be glad when they're gone so I can get back to work. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and we appreciate all you do.

(General laughter.)

JUDGE BLANCHETTE: Randy, thank you for the invitation to come and address the commissioners this morning. Good morning, commissioners. I particularly appreciate traveling with you guys. You don't realize that we do but those pictures on those maps are a good reflection of you, so thank you for traveling with us. And they're accurate too.

I want to compliment the presentation that Randy made because for our tri-county or our DET COG representation of the Tyler, Jasper and Newton counties, we were very well reflected in the presentation that you viewed here. We're a rural type of area. It seems like public transportation has been the topic of so many creatures, and two fleas were at the bottom of the hill looking upward and one said to the other, Well, shall we walk or take a dog? So the public transportation affects all of us.

In the rural areas, many of us travel, as my dad did, choosing to live in Tyler County but yet working for the power company here locally. I would just say thank you, thank you for the pressure that you guys field from your larger metropolitan areas where there's great, great influence to bring needed relief into those areas. In the more rural areas which so many of my counterparts that are here today, two of the commissioners from the court and several of my counterparts in both Newton and Jasper counties, as well as maintenance and supervisory personnel with TxDOT, they're here because obviously you guys are responsive to the fact that rural communities sometimes may be overshadowed, but because you are addressing those maintenance type issues, our roadways have been improved.

The evacuation routes that you are recognizing all along the coast, all three of us are pass-through counties, we're not staging areas, but yet the focus upon how you've addressed the widening of those routes are tremendous.

One final thing that I would share with you in closing is that the rural FM roads are arteries whereby the main timber, and now in recent years the oil and gas, not only exploration but also delivery, as a widening of just some of the shoulders and the strengthening of them has begun to take place, it's relieved some of the pressure that so many of the citizens that live on those roads because of the widening of those shoulders and improving of those, it's added to the safety. And obviously in communities where safety is a concern, where you have an older population that is accustomed to traveling those roadways for years, those types of issues are being addressed.

Our thanks to our district. Like my counterpart, Jimmy Sylvia -- and that pirate thing is a good mantra thing for you there, man -- it's unusual to see Jimmy in a coat and tie. But we would thank you, thank you for willingness to be responsive to rural East Texas as well as rural parts of the rest of the state. So thank you very much for what you do, thank you for your willingness to hear our concerns from a rural face. Thank you.

JUDGE THIBODEAUX: Gentlemen, Carl Thibodeaux, Orange County Judge. Welcome to South East Texas and I truly appreciate the fact that you've taken your time to come to this area and listen to the concerns of the citizens and the governmental leadership. As has been told before by my counterparts, we went through the major hurricane recovery, debris removal from TxDOT, a partnership with Orange County and the Orange County area in getting the roads cleared and getting the traffic arteries opened up to where the citizens could proceed forward to rebuild.

The other project that I'm really appreciative of is the Interstate 10 widening and rehabilitation between the Neches River and the Sabine River. Orange County is the gateway to Texas from the east, we're the first thing that's seen people traveling westward coming in through the county, and the Interstate 10 project has been a major project, major ongoing, major challenge with the rehabilitation and redesign of 10.

We want to push and ask that it keeps going all the way to the Sabine River. There's still a section not funded between the Adams Bayou and the Sabine River which impacts the City of Orange mostly, major impact on the City of Orange. So that particular project we're hoping that the funding will come soon to go ahead and be able to let those contracts out. We were fortunate through other areas of stimulus money getting the portion between Highway 62 and Adams Bayou is going to be let out shortly.

So I do want to thank you for taking your time. The regionalism in this area is very, very strong, the counties have all gotten along together, we all work together, and then when you throw in a TxDOT district and what they're doing and the improvements that they have on the boards planned that's been explained to myself, this region has gotten stronger and stronger. The adversity of the hurricanes has made us stronger, so we've taken that adversity and learned from it and developed a stronger regionalism here than we've ever had before.

And TxDOT is a major part of it; you gentlemen are a major part of it also, so by all working together we can improve the State of Texas from one border to the other. And we're just appreciative that you've taken your time to come to this area and listen to the concerns of the individuals in this area and the projects that we have on the board, the Neches River bridge, the projects in Beaumont, the projects in Port Arthur, the projects in Orange County, Liberty County, Newton County.

It's a proven fact that because of the hurricane issues, the improvement of our highways north of here, north of Orange County, away from Interstate 10 because it runs from east to west and we're always evacuating to the north 90 percent of the time, so we must also concern ourselves with the rural counties north of us and their needs and their farm to market road needs and state highway needs to make sure that the citizens can evacuate in a timely fashion and get out of harm's way in a safe fashion. So we appreciate that.

It's all one large region and it's all one big package for the movement of individuals during emergencies, the movement of commerce for the State of Texas, and also the comfort and driving for our citizens to go from point A to point B. So thank you very much for coming, we deeply appreciate, and you have a safe trip home. Thank you, sir.

MR. REDMOND: Judges, I appreciate your comments.

In closing I would just like to say we talked about partnerships, how we work together. I guess a great hub for us to center around is the South East Texas Regional Planning Organization and Bob Dickinson who is the director of our MPO here for JOHRTS. He's been a great champion and we appreciate that relationship.

With that, I'll take any questions or I'll happily sit down and shut up.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, Randy, what I have observed is a great partnership, great communication with the three county judges that have come up here, and it seems like there's a good partnership going on in this region which is especially important.

Is Representative Hamilton still in the room? No? Good.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: The reason I say that, Judges, he said it best when he said we control the budget, and when you want to talk about funding, it's going to take all of us impressing upon our elected officials at the state level that we need to do something about funding of transportation, so we've got to form that partnership and there's some people in this room that are working very hard to get that done. But I can see that you've got great relationships here in the county and I'm glad to see it, Randy, to your hard and your staff and the employees of the district, and thank you for doing this.

MR. REDMOND: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Randy.

I think we'll now move on with the regular agenda. We will start with item number 1, approval of the minutes of the March 24 regular meeting. Is there a motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: The second item.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning.

Randy, thank you to you and your staff for the great hospitality and the great work that you are doing. It is evident that just by listening to our partners, county judges, city officials and the people from the Chamber that we met yesterday, that you are doing a great job, so thank you all very, very much, we really appreciate it.

Our first item on the agenda, commissioners, is item number 2, and David Casteel will lead a group that's going to present to you all what we're doing to improve our hurricane preparedness. David, it's yours.

MR. CASTEEL: Thank you, Mr. Saenz and commissioners. For the record, my name is David Casteel and I serve you as the assistant executive director for District and Field Operations.

Commissioners we hope that the snow season is over and we hope that the wildfires won't be too bad in West Texas this year, but once again, it's time to start thinking about hurricanes, and the hurricane season is fast approaching, as you mentioned earlier, and what we'd like to do now is update you on how TxDOT is working with many partners, including the Department of Public Safety, to continue to build on the past success we've had in hurricane response and improve our plans for preparedness and response.

I've asked today Catherine Hejl, who is our district engineer in Bryan, to lead this discussion. Joining her at the discussion table are DPS Captain Dwight Mathis and DPS Captain Patrick Mulligan, along with Larry Selane, Larry is our maintenance manager there in the San Antonio District. All of these individuals have been intricately involved in past storms and have shared their experiences and helped us continually improve our plans and actions.

Many others here today have also helped with them as well. DPS Captain Larry Allen is here with us from Beaumont, as well as Toribio Garza from our Maintenance Division and Carla Baze who plays an important role as our Emergency Response Management coordinator. Joining them are two of our district engineers from outside the Beaumont District, who are really involved with hurricane response, along with Catherine, and that's Lonnie Gregorcyk from our Yoakum District and Delvin Dennis from our Houston District. And of course, Randy and his staff are here as well.

So I'd like to turn it over to Catherine and let her give you a briefing and I'll be available for any questions afterwards. Catherine.

MS. HEJL: Thank you, Mr. Casteel. Good morning, commissioners and Mr. Saenz. For the record, my name is Catherine Hejl and I'm the district engineer for the Bryan District.

As you can see above, hurricane operations can have a big impact on TxDOT operations. For Hurricane Ike alone, we spent $104 million cleaning up and only plan to be reimbursed about $68 million which is only about 65 percent, and to date, TxDOT has received $32 million of that money. During Hurricane Ike, we charged 242,736 man hours, and to put that in perspective, currently in my Bryan District we have 281 employees, so that would be every single employee I have working eight hours a day for 108 days. We had 19 districts participating in the cleanup and repair of damage caused by Ike, and these big storms require big response from TxDOT and we are honored to work with DPS and local officials to the benefit of Texas.

After an emergency event such as a hurricane, we meet and discuss the event to determine what went well and what we can improve. We include employees such as Larry Selane who are actually in the field, running and supporting crews or who are observing the public during evacuation or reentry. After Hurricane Season 2008, we found there were some areas to put more emphasis on.

We have an established protocol with our department and with our partners in the Division of Emergency Management on what we do when a storm is approaching. The Division of Emergency Management provides direction and leadership through these events. TxDOT plays an important role and we take this role very seriously and we plan for it in detail. When hurricane season approaches, things start taking shape and plans start to be executed.

When a storm forms and enters the Gulf, activities really accelerate. We assist in informing the public with our roadside signs and setting up temporary safety and comfort stations for those evacuating. We stage and deploy personnel and contractors for evacuation activities and we stage other personnel and contractors for post-storm reentry to assist the first responders in getting to the affected areas and in cleaning up and fixing what was damaged.

Let me start with our public awareness efforts. For each coastal area we have developed brochures, as depicted above, that show the limits of the potential contraflow routes. Also, on these brochures we give important tips to prepare the home and family for an evacuation and we publish crucial necessary phone numbers and web addresses of organizations that an evacuee may need. These brochures are posted on the TxDOT website, they're in the reception areas of TxDOT offices, they're at the chambers of commerce, and the local media often publishes these brochures. This is an example of an IH 10 brochure but there's a brochure for each contraflow route.

Another way we enhance public awareness is through use of dynamic message signs and meetings with public officials. As you see above, two of the messages we are using are "Hurricane Season is here" and "Keep your gas tanks full." We also use these dynamic message signs when traffic is returning after an event to advise of gas shortages, flooding, bridges lost and other road closures.

Also, the federal government has requested our assistance by meeting with local government officials prior to the season to give them an overview of procedures necessary to obtain reimbursement after an emergency. The presentation has been prepared and the districts are currently scheduling meetings to discuss the process. I know I personally spoke with one of the county judges in my district last month and he was pleased that we would be having these meetings and wanted all of his commissioners present. He recently had an emergency and was going to lose about $200,000 because his paperwork was inadequate.

Other actions we take pre-hurricane season to ensure the public is safe is ensuring that we provide safe traffic control for the temporary fueling locations and that they are in good shape to accept buses carrying disabled citizens. The picture top left is a fairground site in Madison County that Captain Dwight Mathis actually secured approval to use and TxDOT prepared the grounds. We also ensure our trucks and supplies are ready to initiate courtesy patrol during evacuations and that supplies and services are in places to begin comfort station operations such as supplying ice, extra bathroom facilities and additional trash receptacles. We have also supplied water and sanitary items during some evacuations.

The addition of evaculanes is another improvement we have made for hurricane evacuations. These evaculanes are wider and improved shoulders that can carry an additional lane of traffic. In some cases they may eliminate the need for the ultimate contraflow lanes. Evaculanes are now in place in Beaumont District on IH 10, in the Houston District on IH 10 and US 290, in the San Antonio district on IH 10 and IH 37, in the Yoakum District on IH 10 and the Corpus Christi District on IH 37. So now IH 10 has an evaculane from Beaumont to Luling and IH 37 has an evaculane from Corpus Christi to San Antonio.

With a few hours notice, signs are activated and these special use lanes are open. In a hurricane situation, things sometime happen very fast and these designs provide quick response capabilities. We also stage wreckers and courtesy patrols along these routes to keep them clear and flowing.

We have contraflow routes published on our brochures but how is the decision made whether to continue use of normal travel lanes or use evaculanes or contraflow the traffic? Captain Patrick Mulligan will discuss this topic.

CAPT. MULLIGAN: For the record, I'm Captain Pat Mulligan; I'm Highway Patrol captain in the Conroe District. My DDC is actually at the Houston regional office due to the Houston Galveston COG. Houston is one of the few locations in the state that actually has two DDCs, Chairman, because of the size of the area.

What occurs here, when the DDC meets, the District Disaster Committee, it's made up of all the state agencies so they can bring all state agencies' resources to bear upon whatever the situation is, and in this case we're talking about hurricane evacuation. What we use during this hurricane evacuation is the information that's provided from TxDOT from traffic counts to the live video feed that we get from the traffic cameras through Transtar to help make a decision.

Well, then that decision is being made in that location, in this case at the regional office, with the local elected officials and also with the TxDOT members that are there so that everybody can be on page because whenever we do a contraflow, we need to have all the players, including the media, involved in it so that we can get the right message out to the people to get this flowing. And at the same time we work on what can we do to speed this up in the future, so we kind of do some preemptive planning to try to stay ahead of a problem because you don't want to lose control.

MR. HOUGHTON: Let me ask you where and when was that picture taken?

MS. HEJL: It was during Rita. And that's Houston, isn't it, Delvin?

MR. HOUGHTON: It's at Houston?


MS. HEJL: Thank you, Captain Mulligan.

Before last season, we developed an alternate or congestion relief contraflow plan for IH 45. Captain Dwight Mathis will describe what we did.

CAPT. MATHIS: For the record, I'm Captain Dwight Mathis of the Highway Patrol in the Bryan District.

Depending on what is decided in Houston as reference to contraflow, it has an impact on the Bryan District. If an evacuation occurs in Houston, this is a major event. Captain Mulligan, Catherine and myself developed a quick implementation of a contraflow plan that we refer to as congestion relief plan. What it does, this plan terminates one lane in northern Walker County and the second lane in the southern part of Madison County instead of going all the way to the Dallas area. This plan relieves congestion for smaller storms, it takes less time to set up, and it uses fewer resources from both TxDOT and law enforcement.

MS. HEJL: Thank you, Captain Mathis.

This shortened congestion relief route is not published on the brochure because we didn't want to confuse the public with a second I-45 contraflow route, but it would be used as conditions dictate.

In addition, the Houston District, Delvin's district, is widening sections of IH 45 and I am developing plans in the Bryan District to reconstruct the northbound lane shoulder of IH 45 to allow for an evaculane, hopefully for the 2011-2012 season if funding is available.

While evacuation is ongoing, some TxDOT crews are setting up and manning evacuation contraflow lanes and comfort stations, but other crews are staging for post-landfall reentry. These crews are staging in districts close to the coast but outside the expected major impact of the storm. These crews are prepared to clear roads to allow first responders to access the areas hit by the storm, remove debris, assess highway bridge and highway damage, and perform emergency sign and signal work.

Above are pictures of our crews traveling to the damaged area with their equipment mustered from around the state and some other crews clearing the roads. I can tell by the 13 at the beginning of the truck number on the lower right-hand picture that this is a Yoakum crew, and as I recall, these Yoakum crews were on IH 45 near Galveston within hours of landfall during Ike, assisting the Houston crews who had rode out the storm.

There's a story that the Yoakum crew posted a Yoakum High School Bulldog flag on the Galveston Seawall the first morning after the storm, but Lonnie won't give us a picture.

(General laughter.)

MS. HEJL: We have a very detailed emergency response reentry plan that reflects deployment based on storm size and the impact area. The example on the slide is for a Beaumont area storm. There is a separate plan for all five coastal regions. You can see that Bryan and Yoakum are staging districts for this coastal district storm. Depending on the level of the storm, we know how many districts will be staging in our areas and which ones they are. Generally, on this chart we consider a Cat 1 storm a Level 1 response, a Cat 2 or 3 a Level 2 response, and a Cat 4 or 5 a Level 3 response.

We also know who their backup districts or support districts are. For instance, I know I'm in the gold, Bryan is in the gold and Yoakum is in the blue. I know Brownwood, Dallas and Waco are staging in my Bryan District no matter what level of storm we have. I also know that Lubbock, Fort Worth and Wichita Falls are their backups. For a big storm it takes the entire state to handle the evacuation and cleanup.

Also, notice in each bubble there is a route indicated. The districts already know which route they will reenter the impacted area on. And you notice the gold and blue colors, and then to the right there's a map that graphically shows what the routes are for each crew.

To get a feel for the number of employees going into an affected area right after a storm, for a Level 1 response there's about 100 employees that go in, for Level 2 about 155, and for Level 3 about 200. And then as days go by, we bring out those employees and put in fresh personnel. These crews deploy to assist the impacted area and start to work for the district engineer there. As you can imagine, logistics are interesting, housing, feeding and supervising hundreds of new crews while your own house is blown away or flooded and there's no electricity or communication. This can be really a challenge for a DE that I'm sure Randy, Delvin and John Barton can attest to. I will touch on logistics a bit more later, but our crews are dedicated to helping Texans and we will find a way to do so.

So that's the Beaumont plan, this is the Houston plan. You can see Bryan and Yoakum again are the staging districts and the routes that they'll go back into after the storm. Yoakum, this time San Antonio and Bryan are the staging districts because the Yoakum office itself may be impacted by that storm. For a Corpus Christi area storm, Bryan and San Antonio are the staging areas, if it hits Corpus, Port Aransas or Rockport. And finally Pharr, San Antonio are the staging areas for deployment of resources for a Lower Valley storm.

In past storms, districts that deployed planned on being self-sufficient for the first few days. Some districts ate better than others in that arrangement. When you are in day three of working a storm response, sleeping on a cot in an un-air-conditioned shop without electricity and eating a jar of peanut butter and the district next to you has a cooker with steaks, well, you can see the problem. So in response to that, we have established a logistics team that goes in with the crews, they handle feeding and housing those crews, they will perform safety briefings and other administrative duties, and we have also contracted with a service company that will come in after the initial response and provide catering, shower facilities and toilet facilities of the responding crews.

Larry Selane has led several of these crews during Rita and Ike and he has helped develop improvements to the deployment each time. Larry is a former Marine and he knows something about assembling and taking control of the area.

MR. SELANE: Thank you, Catherine. And for the record, my name is Larry Selane; I'm the maintenance manager in the San Antonio District.

It's been my privilege to lead several crews into impacted areas, twice here to Beaumont, so this is almost a home away from home for us. We have a good plan in place, we've practiced that plan, we're ready to go with it, we have outstanding crews, these are dedicated people, we've trained these individuals on what to expect and what they may encounter along the way, anything from high water and downed power lines to an alligator. So they're ready to go and the department is ready to go.

But with any plan, it's just a plan and we have to be ready to adapt and overcome any obstacle that we may come across along the way, and what we do is we take those lessons learned, and at the end of the event we go back, look at our plans, see if we need to alter it in any type of way to make it a better plan or a safer plan for our crews or the people of Texas. And being here in Beaumont, I can tell you that the staff is outstanding; they know what they're doing, seeing these people work around the clock; my crews are sleeping, they're still working. And I'd like to point out the leadership that Mr. Redmond and Mr. Mosher have provided is tops, and I would bring my people back here any time that they're needed, so Texas is well in hand with these people here.

MS. HEJL: Thanks for all you do, Larry. This might be one of your crews removing debris, I couldn't see the equipment numbers here.

To aid in the work we do, we do now have private contractors, debris removal contractors for each coastal district. We let them this summer, they're two-year contracts, so next storm that comes, they should be able to come in with us and be there after we're through.

I appreciate the opportunity to update you today, and if you have any questions for myself or the panel.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any questions? Go ahead.

MR. UNDERWOOD: This is a new world for me being in rural Texas up in the Panhandle, we deal with tornadoes and whatnot. Question for you, one of the things I worry about, and I really appreciate the hard work of our men and women and whatnot, but after this hurricane, what do we do for our employees when they go back home and they don't have a home? They clean up; they get everything for FEMA to come in for the people to move back in but their home is gone. What do we do for our local employees here that have done all the hard work, how are we handling that?

MS. HEJL: Randy.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Because I worry about that, Randy, because these are the men and women that made it possible for everybody to get in, and they go back home, they don't have electricity, they don't have a house, they don't have food. We've been bringing them food, we've been catering to them and whatnot while they did all this hard work, but where do they go after that because their home is gone? Last time I checked, they didn't just move from Lubbock, Texas down here to do this and move back to Lubbock, their home is gone.

MR. REDMOND: You know, what's really interesting is after the hurricane, you've got all this anxiety from the employees here, camping overnight, ready to deploy, go get some roads cleaned up, but as soon as things kind of calm down enough after that first cleanup, they want to go see if they have anything left, a lot of them never know if their house got wiped out or not. But after Ike we had over a half dozen employees that pretty much lost everything. We work with them; we help them, as much as possible, find places to live.

Of course, already most of them have families that they can get by for an interim. We had a maintenance supervisor, for instance, who lost his house who went up and lived with some other family while his house was rebuilt. It's a hardship working through all the insurance and with FEMA on the issues, and we provide them as much time as they can.

MR. UNDERWOOD: But I'm just saying they provide a great service to the citizens of Texas and I challenge management to look into what we can do to help these men and women that don't have a home all of a sudden, yet they've been able to help other people get back into their businesses or whatnot.

MR. REDMOND: And one thing, I need to credit all our other employees and our neighboring districts and districts around the state is all the employees within the various districts came up with contributions and care packages and various things to help out our employees.

MR. UNDERWOOD: But that's the family of TxDOT which I love, but I'm just saying we need, Amadeo, to look into this because it's beyond just that. I mean, in my case I was involved in the May 11 tornado, as I spoke of this morning, I could go back home to my house; I still had electricity and water; I could still get food. If it's gone, it's gone.

So anyway, thank you, appreciate it, and I appreciate all the hard work that you do. I think it's great, the organization I see now. My son-in-law is from New York and he was bragging on the work that you did and whatnot over the last hurricanes; he thought it was very impressive, how you dealt with the situation, the disasters. You can never plan on them; you can just plan to do the best you can. Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: At this time I'd like to call up, we have somebody to speak, former County Judge Robert Eckels, who, by the way, is chair of the Texas High Speed Rail Transportation Corridor. And you're speaking not on rail today, though, Judge, you're speaking on you've been appointed by the governor to a committee.

JUDGE ECKELS: Mr. Chairman, members, I am honored to be here today. I actually came to wear the high speed rail hat, that's another one of my non-paid jobs, so like you, we wear many hats.

I appreciated the presentation from TxDOT on the emergency preparedness and wanted to give a few comments in relation to that based on my experiences as county judge and what we've gone through with TxDOT, both through Rita and Katrina and the storms before, and then later through the Governor's Commission on Disaster Recovery and Renewal.

During the Hurricane Ike event, it was clear that TxDOT had taken the lessons from Rita, the conflicts, and as you saw the plans for Beaumont to evacuate or Houston to evacuate or Corpus to evacuate. When Rita hit, the challenge we had was they planned for each area but they hadn't planned for all areas, and there was conflicts that emerged, and I think they took that to heart and you saw in Hurricane Ike those lessons applied. And every time there's a storm, we learn and we get better, and in Ike we did not have the kind of evacuation problems, the massive traffic congestion. Mr. Saenz and the staff did a great job of handling that evacuation much more efficiently.

There are still the issues that you have as you leave Houston. The improvements to Interstate 45, for example, going north to Dallas are great, but it's still two lanes once you get north of Conroe when you're going out, and you've got the contraflow system in place, though, now and a more efficient method to do that if it's necessary, and it's not always necessary.

I was listening to you talking about not being familiar with the flooding issues there from Lubbock, Commissioner, and in fact, Mayor Martin and I were on the phone during one of these storms and I think he was having as bad of floods as we were, he only had an inch of rain but they didn't know what to do with it there and there was considerable floods. So it's a challenge across the state and it's always a challenge for first responders' families. We had the same issue in Harris County is how do you get people to take care of the community when they're worried about their own families, and you're good to bring that up.

In this most recent Hurricane Ike event, there was a series of challenges, most largely based on the scale of the storm, debris removal. Judge Sylvia earlier mentioned the support of TxDOT. There's a constant problem from FEMA as we look at debris removal. It will be a 30- or 60- or 90-day window they'll give you for reimbursement for debris removal and usually they'll extend it but not always, and sometimes they don't extend that period until a couple of days afterwards. So it's real hard for Chambers County, Harris County, the City of Galveston, whomever, to have a contractor working on a contract that expires.

And when that happened most recently with FEMA, particularly in Chambers County, TxDOT stepped in and did the work that the federal government would not do and was really a lifesaver for a lot of folks out there, it made a huge difference on continuing to manage that debris removal program, and again, the department, I too just want to commend them for the work that they did, particularly Steve Simmons and Amadeo Saenz for their work on helping the communities out there.

And I'm sure in Galveston they would be happy to have the Yoakum Bulldogs flag on that Seawall if they're there helping haul off and help the people, they may want to come to Yoakum someday, but when these storms happen, we're all Texans and we're working together. And that's one of the fun things of working on that commission as well as working with this department is that the competition is friendly and in the end we're all working together, so in the end, it makes it a great place.

And I'd close out by just saying that the comments that we received in the hearings for the cooperative spirit and the nature of Texans was the contractors and the federal assistance workers, FEMA and other staff coming through Texas would say the attitude of people in Texas during these storms is very different. You talk about your employees, and in other states they would roll in and people are sitting on their steps saying what are we going to do, who's going to help us, in Texas they're ripping out sheetrock and saying we don't have time to wait on the FEMA inspectors, they're fixing their houses and the neighbors are getting together and they're taking care of each other.

You seem to see that spirit throughout the state, between state agencies. There was no kind of this is a TxDOT project, it would be TxDOT working with the land office working with Galveston County, working with Harris County, working with Chambers County, it was a partnership and everybody threw in together and sorted it out in the end. So just kudos to your staff for a job well done during Ike, and I know that you're even better prepared this year for applying those lessons from 2008.

And I'll be happy to give you the high speed rail speech too, but if not, I've already had that discussion and we know you care and keep us in that study.

MR. HOUGHTON: Judge, thank you.

JUDGE ECKELS: Any questions or anything?

MR. HOUGHTON: No. Thank you very much.

Any other comments? Is that it? Onward.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, David, thank you, Catherine and also our DPS partners, thank everyone that worked on this storm.

Moving on to agenda item number 3 dealing with Aviation, Jay Joseph will present a minute order for awarding of some state and federal grants for airport improvements.

MR. JOHNSON: Good morning, commissioners, Director Saenz.

The Aviation Division has one minute order for this morning, item 3. This minute order contains a request for approval of grant funding for five airport improvement projects, including one request for a new terminal building, one lighting project, one pavement rehabilitation project, one drainage project, one apron reconstruction project, all projects included in this Aviation Division Capital Improvement Program. Total funds requested for this project are approximately $3.7 million, of which $1.9- is state, about $980,000 in federal, and $768,000 local.

A public hearing to solicit comments was held on March 18, 2010 and no comments were received. We request approval of this minute order.


MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)


MR. UNDERWOOD: Jay, appreciate all your professionalism and whatnot in how you handle your business, just want that on the record. And also, hope you had a good night's sleep.

MR. JOHNSON: Yes, sir, we did, and a long day today, eight flights and four aircraft, so we're making the maximum utilization of the fleet, so I appreciate the comments.

MR. UNDERWOOD: You bet. Thank you, Jay.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Jay.

Agenda item number 4 deals with the promulgation of administrative rules, 4(a) deals with final adoption, and we have Angie Parker with our Office of General Counsel who will present three minute orders. Go ahead and present all of your three that deal with some of the changes to our rules as a result of the transferring of duties to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

MS. PARKER: Good morning. For the record, my name is Angela Parker and I'm with the Office of General Counsel.

Agenda item 4(a)(1) is a minute order for the adoption of amendments to Chapter 1 concerning management of the department. References to Vehicle Titles and Registration, Motor Carrier, Motor Vehicle, and the Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority have been removed from these rules as those divisions have been transferred to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

No comments were received. Staff recommends adoption of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions, motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you. Angie.

MS. PARKER: Agenda item 4(a)(2) is a minute order for the adoption of amendments to Chapter 3 concerning access to official records. References to the divisions that have been transferred to the Department of Motor Vehicles have been removed from these rules. In addition, the department's regionalization plan requires the amendment of several sections to add references to the regional director in relation to official records. And finally, the changes also clarify that public access to official records and the fees for those records are covered by Chapter 552 of the Government Code and the rules of the Office of the Attorney General.

No comments were received on these rules and staff recommends adoption of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions, motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MS. PARKER: Finally, agenda item 4(a)(4) is a minute order for adoption of the repeal of Chapters 8, 17 and 18 concerning Motor Vehicle Distribution, Vehicle Titles and Registration, and Motor Carriers. These rules relate to former divisions of the department and are no longer necessary as those responsibilities have been transferred to the DMV.

No comments were received and staff recommends adoption of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions, motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Passes. Thank you, Angie. Is this your first time -- it's not your first time up at the dais.

MS. PARKER: No, it's not my first time.

MR. HOUGHTON: You're not a rookie.

MS. PARKER: Not quite. Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Angie.

Going back to agenda item 4(a)(3), James Bass, CFO, will present a minute order also dealing with the same subject, some changes as a result of moving functions over to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

MR. BASS: Good morning. For the record, I'm James Bass, chief financial officer at TxDOT.

These rules deal with the payment of fees for department goods and services. The amendments would remove any reference to the divisions and functions that were transferred to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

No comments were received and staff would recommend your approval.


MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, James.

MR. BASS: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, James.

Agenda item 4(a)(5) deals with a minute order for final adoption of rules dealing with the creation of interim speed limits, and Carol Rawson, Traffic Operations Division Director, will present the minute order.

MS. RAWSON: Good morning, sir. For the record, I'm Carol Rawson, director of the Traffic Operations Division.

This final amendment will revise the department's existing rules for setting speed limits on the state highway system. Currently, a district may develop an interim speed limit on a new or reconstructed highway but is not required to do so. This amendment will require the creation and posting of an interim speed limit when a new road is opened. This change will help to ensure that a safe and lawful speed limit is posted as soon as possible. A second speed limit study will be conducted once traffic has stabilized on the new highway to determine if the interim speed limit should be replaced.

The proposed rules were published in the March 12 edition of the Texas Register and no public comments were received. We recommend approval of this minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Question?

MR. MEADOWS: Yes, I just wanted to make a comment. The catalyst for this change really was a tragic accident which occurred on Highway 34 in Terrell, Texas, and Amadeo and I had the opportunity to actually visit that site and see that situation or that spot where that tragic accident occurred, and this will enable us to be responsive and to act proactively in hopes to avoid those sort of situations.

MS. RAWSON: Exactly.

MR. MEADOWS: So I applaud bringing this forward. Thank you.


MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thanks, Carol.

MS. RAWSON: Thank you, sir.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Carol.

Agenda item 4(b) deals with proposed adoption of administrative rules. John Barton will present a minute order concerning construction cost participation.

MR. BARTON: Good morning. For the record, my name is John Barton, I serve as your assistant executive director for Engineering Operations, and I would like to dutifully note that I think you were much to lenient on Ms. Parker when she was before you this morning. Although she's not a rookie, we were expecting you to be much more difficult on her.

I'd also like just to briefly mention that it's always good to be back in familiar surroundings, back here in the Beaumont District, and I appreciate all the kind remarks that were shared last night and this morning on my behalf, and just add to those that you've already provided, as well as the elected officials here in South East Texas of what a great job our staff here in the Beaumont District does under Mr. Redmond's leadership. They're fine men and women, they do a great job for us, and I was proud to be able to proudly serve alongside them for the few years that I was here in the Beaumont District.

Commissioners, this morning item 4(b) that is before you would propose adoption of amendments to Administrative Code in Chapter 15, Section 15.55(8)(d) that would remove the local cost participation requirement for a select small number of off-system highway bridge projects that connect Texas to neighboring states. I believe, for your information, there are three known crossings that would be affected by this particular proposed adoption of amendments to our current rules.

Pursuing this was done in response from requests from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to assist in the facilitation of some locally owned bridges that crossed the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma has been working with us, has identified two off-system bridge projects that are in need of redevelopment and reconstruction. The counties that house those projects in Texas, however, do not have the funding necessary or the equivalent match capacity to finance their required local participation under the current rules.

Oklahoma is using a bond program to fund their portion of the project, we are using the federal program which is 80 percent federally funded, 20 percent state funded, 10 percent of that 20 percent is funded by the locals either through cash or in-kind contributions.

We believe, as staff, that it's in the best interest of both Texas and Oklahoma on these interstate commerce routes to cooperate in developing these projects and to help aid in the streamlining of these complex contractual issues to facilitate these projects that assist trade, commerce and movement of traffic between our bordering states.

The proposal that is before you would allow the cost participation on these projects to be waived on the local level and that that participation be borne by the state. So the staff recommends your approval of the minute order to move forward with the consideration of these proposed amendments to these rules. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any questions? I do have one comment. Are you talking about positive remarks directed your way last night?

MR. BARTON: Yes, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: I'm trying to remember.

MR. BARTON: Well, you know, I tried to deflect those that were not so positive by some of the members of the dais this morning, and I've got a pretty thick skin, so it usually rolls off my back very well, but I try to grab any glory that I can anytime I can, yes, sir.

(General laughter.)


MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, John.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John. John will continue and present agenda item 4(c) which deals with the withdrawal of some proposed administrative rules.

MR. BARTON: Yes. Commissioners, this morning this action item is not a minute order, but as you will recall, Minute Order 112070, that was passed by the commission in your December 2009 meeting, proposed amendments to Section 5.58 of our rules which deal with the calculation of pass-through toll fares and toll rates and the development by the public and private entities for pass-through toll projects to allow us to solicit private pass-through proposals in circumstances other than a program call that is issued under our normal program which is under 5.54, and to allow us to make payments to the private developers should we enter into such an agreement from project revenues as a reimbursement of not only their financing cost but also a reasonable rate of return on their private investment.

The amendments and new sections were proposed to facilitate the timely completion of several important projects around the state that could not otherwise be moved forward in a timely manner basis because of our limited financial abilities and because of insufficient highway funds.

Since those rules were first proposed and under consideration, the Speaker of the House of Representatives here in Texas has appointed and announced the formation of a House Select Committee on Transportation Funding to consider our current situation and future potential funding opportunities within Texas, and staff believes that it's appropriate to coordinate the consideration of these proposed rule amendments with that particular committee, as well as the committees of the House and Senate, the House Transportation Committee as well as the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, as they consider the future funding opportunities in Texas.

So this action item before you would allow for the withdrawal of these rules at this time and to allow staff to work with those committees to adopt any revisions necessary to them to coordinate those activities better.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions?

MR. MEADOWS: John, do you have any sense of when -- we talked about bringing these rules back to the commission; do you have a sense of when that might be?

MR. BARTON: It could be as early as July or August. I know that these committees that I just mentioned are currently underway, they have been formed and are working under Representative Darby as the chairman of the select subcommittee on funding, and of course, the House and Senate Transportation committees, respectively, are having hearings during May. I guess we would lean towards the commission's direction on when you would like to see those back before you. But our intent would be to work with them to make sure that we've fully evaluated this issue, this particular potential opportunity to advance projects and to make sure that we're doing it in a coordinated fashion.

MR. MEADOWS: That's helpful to me, and I will tell you, I am personally a little concerned about this action that's being proposed this morning, and I would intend to support it as long as I've got a commitment from Amadeo and your, our staff, to bring these rule revisions back in a very timely fashion, no later than the first of August.

As I think all of us know, as we look to creative ways to meet the transportation challenges that we face in this state, this certainly would be a tool that we would like to employ, that we would like to use to deliver some really significant projects, projects that would enhance and improve the quality of life for literally, in some cases, in one project in particular, of several million people with over 200,000 motorists a day using Interstate 35E in Dallas and Denton counties, already a terribly congested corridor that is only projected to get much worse. This is a tool that could be used to address that project and delaying it in this fashion is going to continue to prolong the misery of those citizens that are affected in a negative fashion by the lack of infrastructure that is there.

It concerns me, again, that we've chosen this path at this point, but if staff, in your professional capacity, recommends that this is the appropriate action to take, I'm comfortable with that as long as we have the rule revisions back to us by the first of August.

MR. BARTON: That's certainly possible for us to do, Commissioner. And I would just like, if it's appropriate, to share with you that we are continuing to work on specifically the I-35 East project with the counties and the planning organization there, as well as with our financial advisors and professionals to evaluate the financial potential of that particular project to determine an appropriate scope to move forward with and to identify mechanisms that would allow us to use Pass-Through Toll Program as a viable mechanism or vehicle by which to deliver that project.

So that work continues on but your point is duly noted that we need to make decisions on what the pass-through toll opportunities are and bring that back for this commission's consideration.

MR. MEADOWS: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: This will require a motion.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John

MR. HOUGHTON: You're going to come back up here in a minute, huh, John?

MR. BARTON: Either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I will be back before than once again this morning.

MR. SAENZ: And Commissioner Meadows, I'm pretty sure that we can meet the deadline.

MR. MEADOWS: I just want to make sure that you consider. I assume your silence indicated that you felt like that was something that could be accomplished.

MR. SAENZ: I was nodding to John so that he could say yes, but I wouldn't say it.

(General laughter.)

MR. MEADOWS: Thank you. I think we're on the same page. Thank you very much.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item number 5, Mary Meyland will present for the commission's approval a minute order that approves the draft text of our strategic plan.

MS. MEYLAND: Good morning, members of the commission, Director Saenz and Roger. I am Mary Meyland, serving as your director of Strategic Policy and Performance Management Office, and finally, after about six months of collaborative and cooperative development, I present for your consideration a minute order to approve the release of our draft 2013-15 Strategic Plan, and the draft would be available for public review and comment on our TxDOT internet site.

Upon your approval, we plan to post this about 30-page pdf version of our new Strategic Plan on our website. The draft document will be available for public comment until about May 28. During the month of May, our office will continue to do our public outreach through the Harris Poll, we're going to do another Harris Poll response, to determine basically if we have been successful at hitting the mark of the expectations of the public regarding the goals, objectives and the performance measures that we have summarized in our Strategic Plan.

The second round of public focus groups has already been completed by TTI and our feedback has been principally supportive and constructive. In addition, we will convene with our internal work group to solicit their final review and craft the way ahead for the plan's implementation this summer.

Based on your direction, this new Strategic Plan is the first TxDOT performance-based plan. Each new or revised strategic goal has been described by specific operational objectives and a set of potential performance measures that will be designed to tell our story of TxDOT's progress and performance.

The new plan embraces all of the modal opportunities that the department has been given legal authority to pursue or support. The new congestion relief goal emphasizes the importance of our partnerships with the metropolitan planning organizations in developing and implementing congestion relief plans. The new connectivity goal places a significance on the importance of the reliability of our transportation system via all modes: air transit, bus, rail, truck and cars.

Lastly, our number one goal that you have prioritized speaks to the dedication of the commission to promote the department's efficiency and effectiveness and to tell the story, whether it's good/bad, through our new performance reporting mechanisms and efforts.

In June, we will return with the final version of the plan indicating and including all the necessary appendices that are required by the LBB and the Governor's Office for formal submission. Upon your approval, our office will publish this new plan electronically and in hard copy, as directed, and that would be in June of this year. In addition, we will begin to work with our divisions, regions and offices to build the action plans and the specific performance measures in order for us to put the plan into action beginning in September of this year.

Thank you for your attention. I believe in your books there's an attachment that shows you the 34 pages that we're going to publish. There are a lot of graphics that are missing because they're in the process of being developed and have been suggested by way of our public involvement for additional graphic descriptions, so we are going to include those in the June version, obviously. And staff recommends approval. Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Can you expand a little bit on some of the performance measures?

MR. UNDERWOOD: He wants you to drag it out till Ted comes back.

MS. MEYLAND: Oh, okay, let me drag it out.

MR. UNDERWOOD: It's not that you weren't explicit in explaining what we needed to understand, but we're missing our interim, the dean.

MR. MEADOWS: The dean is not in the house.

(General laughter.)

MS. MEYLAND: Oh, so we can't take any action.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Do you want to just wait a minute, Amadeo, and go to the next project and then we can vote twelve things at once when Ted finally shows up.

MR. SAENZ: We can do that.

MS. MEYLAND: We were waiting for you.


MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: I would second the motion with just a comment which is to acknowledge the fact that this is another important step forward in advancing this Strategic Plan with its new perspective on how we do things. Thank you.

MS. MEYLAND: Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Mary.

MS. MEYLAND: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Mary.

Agenda item number 6, John will present a slow presentation on the status of our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects. And if he finishes his presentation on that, he can go on to agenda item number 8 and discuss that one.

MR. BARTON: Good morning. Again for the record, my name is John Barton.

Item 6 is a minute order that addresses some additional projects that might be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Just a brief recap on the Recovery Act for the commission. Obviously, back in February of 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and since that time the department and our transportation partners have been working very diligently to implement projects to spend over $2.6 billion of funding for transportation projects across the State of Texas.

A few of those were highlighted here today by other elected officials from the region, and I think we were all invited to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for one of those projects on FM 365 in Jefferson County in the Port Arthur community that is being funded from the Recovery Act today, and I believe that they were diligent to share with the commission their sincere appreciation for your consideration of that project.

Before I address the minute order before you, just to let you know, there has been a new update on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The release for notice of funding opportunities was provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation for TIGER-2 recently. This is a program similar to the first TIGER program which is Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery is what the term TIGER stands for. This particular grant program will be for $600 million in total for the nation. Projects are anticipated to be applied for that range between $10 million as a minimum, no larger than $200 million, and no state can receive more than $200 million in total, I believe, for the program.

Also, the secretary, as he makes these decisions, will be directed to provide at least a minimum of $140 million in rural areas of the nation and to strive to select projects that would provide geographic distribution of the funds across the nation. Applications are due by August 23 of this year, 2010, and selection of projects will be made no sooner than September 15 of 2010.

So with that dancing exercise that I just provided for you, I'll now share with you that the minute order before you today would provide funding for two additional projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act here in Texas. One of those is a mobility project that will be in the Houston District, it is on FM 2234 and it was a project that was approved by the commission in September, I believe, as a potential backup or substitute project should underruns occur on other projects which is the case.

This project is estimated to be approximately $14.5 million and would improve FM 2234 between FM 521 and State Highway 288 south and west of the community of Houston, a much-needed mobility project for the Greater Houston area in, I believe, Brazoria County, and we are recommending your approval of that project through this minute order.

Likewise, one additional preservation project is being requested to be added to the list of previously approved preservation and maintenance and rehabilitation projects. This particular project is on a portion of US 287 in the Childress District, it is to make pavement improvements to that particular stretch of roadway, and is a $2.1 million project that has been identified as a much-needed project.

So the minute order before you would approve the addition of these two projects to our list of previously approved projects, and staff would recommend your approval of the minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: John, underruns, cumulative number of underruns, have we allocated those underruns as a result of this action or do we still have underrun money available?

MR. BARTON: There will be remaining underrun funds available after this action, they will be in the order of magnitude, in total for mobility and preservation projects, of approximately $45 million, I believe.

MR. HOUGHTON: That would be the balance, about $45 million?

MR. BARTON: Yes, sir. And I would anticipate that in your May commission meeting we'll bring forward a list of projects to request adding funding.

MR. HOUGHTON: Do we anticipate additional underruns or are we pretty close to building out?

MR. BARTON: There will potentially be additional underruns. We have projects that are funded from the Recovery Act that we'll be taking bids in May, and once those are concluded, for the most part, our projects will have been awarded and we'll know the totality of our underruns. It could be that as these projects that we're requesting you add today are taken bids on, they may underrun as well, and at that time, as the window of opportunity begins to close later this year, I think staff will be recommending that we use those underruns to fund change orders on projects that were previously approved because we have begun to see a few cost increases on some of the previously funded Recovery Act projects.


MR. MEADOWS: Just curious if we're seeing the size or the scope of the underruns beginning to diminish some.

MR. BARTON: Yes, sir, we are, and I think later today we'll see some of that, but rather than these 20 to 30 percent underruns, we're getting down to about 6 percent.

MR. MEADOWS: Still significant.

MR. BARTON: It's still significant.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thanks. Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: John, thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

Commission, agenda item number 7 is going to be deferred until next month.

John will now move on and present agenda item number 8 dealing with a minute order for approval of a Cameron County application for some changes to the Veterans International Bridge.

MR. BARTON: And Director Saenz, if you could assist me with the pronunciation of the actual location.

MR. SAENZ: At Los Tomates.

MR. BARTON: Los Tomates. Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: And Tomates is Tomatoes.

MR. BARTON: Okay, the Bridge at the Tomatoes then.

This minute order before the commission would, as Director Saenz pointed out, provide for the approval of an expansion project application that has been submitted to us by Cameron County for the Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates.

Transportation Code requires the commission's approval of any new highway bridge that crosses the Rio Grande River under Title 43 of our Administrative Code, Section 15.7 through 15.76. A political subdivision or private entity authorized to construct or finance such a bridge crossing the Rio Grande must obtain approval of the commission prior to requesting approval from the federal government, so your action today is prerequisite to that request.

The department received an application from the county on January 25 of 2010 for this particular project, and after reviewing the application, we found it to meet the requirements of Section 43 of the Administrative Code, Section 15.47. We've held a public hearing on this project on March 17, 2010 and received public comments on the project. We have also submitted the application to the various entities that are required under the International Bridge Rules and requested the review and comment.

I believe you've been provided a copy of those comments, the application that was submitted and the supporting documentation, as well as the commitment from our counterparts in Mexico for developing the roadway network on their side of the bridge, so staff believes that approving this bridge application is in the best interest of the public and the State of Texas in improving the state's transportation system and would recommend your approval of this minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Questions, motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, John.

MR. BARTON: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

Agenda item number 9 deals with Rail Projects, and Bill Glavin, our Rail Division director will present three minute orders, two authorizing the development of projects that we received from FRA and one informing the commission as to what the status is on some additional projects.

MR. GLAVIN: Good morning, commissioners. For the record, I'm Bill Glavin, I'm your director of the Rail Division, Texas Department of Transportation. It's a pleasure to be here in Beaumont.

This first minute order authorizes the department to enter into any necessary agreements to utilize funds from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program for the development of and construction of the Valley View Double Track Project. This project is located on the Trinity Railroad Express line just east of Dallas-Tarrant County line and connects and connects two existing sections of double track.

The addition of this double track section will increase capacity on the TRE line and will allow the rerouting of some of Amtrak's Texas Eagle trains off the Union Pacific line to the TRE line. This will help improve on-time performance of the Texas Eagle and will increase capacity at Tower 55.

Currently, Amtrak must make a turning movement at Tower 55 to enter the station at the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center. By rerouting the trains onto the TRE line, this turning movement will be eliminated. This project will also improve the performance of TRE passenger service.

The Valley View Double Track Project is part of the TRE's long-range plan to completely double track its line between Dallas and the TP station in Fort Worth. Once the double tracking on this corridor is complete, the TRE plans to add additional commuter service which will help reduce congestion on our highway system and provide additional travel options for the citizens of the DFW area.

Total project cost is $14,379,285, with 50 percent of the funding coming through DART and the other 50 percent coming from the FRA grant. Staff recommends approval of this minute order.


MR. MEADOWS: Bill, do you know what the daily ridership of the TRE is, average right now?

MR. GLAVIN: I think it's around 17,000 per day on weekdays.

MR. MEADOWS: Maybe. I'd like to know that.

MR. GLAVIN: Okay, I'll get back to you on it. I had that figure earlier and I may have lost it in my mind here.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Bill, I want to digress a little bit. How fast is this rail that we're talking about, this passenger?

MR. GLAVIN: The passenger rail on the Trinity Rail Express is designed to go up 79 miles an hour. There are some restrictions because of conditions on the track, but the overall is 79.

MR. UNDERWOOD: The reason why I'm asking that is because I want to sit down with you at some point in time and work with you, because to me, high-speed rail is actually 180-200 miles an hour. You see where I'm coming from?


MR. UNDERWOOD: This, to me, is a misnomer when it says high-speed rail, it just means a little faster, we're now going to go from 25 miles an hour to 50 miles an hour or 60 miles an hour. To me, true high-speed, as you look at it in Europe and whatnot, is 180-200 miles an hour.

MR. GLAVIN: That is correct, the definition of high-speed rail is over 155 miles an hour; higher speed rail is considered 79, up to that range.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So what we're doing today is higher speed rail, not high-speed rail?

MR. GLAVIN: That is correct.

MR. UNDERWOOD: I just want to make sure the audience understands that and our commissioners understand that, and I would like to work with you on true high-speed rail as we go along. Okay, sir?

MR. GLAVIN: And that is part of what we're doing with the State Rail Plan, sir.

MR. UNDERWOOD: Great, thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any other questions? Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)


MR. GLAVIN: The second minute order authorizes the department to enter into any necessary agreements to utilized funds from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program for the development and construction of the BNSF signal timing project. This project is for improving the signal timing on BNSF's Fort Worth Subdivision from Tower 55 north of Gainesville, Texas to the Oklahoma border. This work will include upgrading railroad crossings and their signal circuitry to move shunts to allow higher train speeds.

These improvements were identified as a result of a comprehensive performance review of Amtrak's Heartland Flyer Service operating over the Fort Worth Subdivision to improve intercity passenger rail service. These signal timing performance will allow Amtrak speeds to be increased to 79 miles an hour and freight train speeds to be increased to 55 miles an hour. These speed increases will save almost 17 minutes on the Heartland Flyer's trip time and improve the Flyer's overall on-time performance. The Heartland Flyer, a state-supported route, provides daily passenger rail service over the BNSF railway line between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City with an additional Texas stop in Gainesville.

The overall cost of this project is $3,754,180 and will be funded through the FRA grant. Staff recommends approval of this minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: I have a question, the same question that Commissioner Meadows asked you earlier, what is the ridership on this line?

MR. GLAVIN: It was 82,000-plus last year.

MR. HOUGHTON: The entire year?

MR. GLAVIN: Yes, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any other questions? Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, Bill.

MR. SAENZ: Commission, these two minute orders were really projects that were submitted for the program calls that were put out by FRA last year and these are the two projects that were selected, so we're now approving the development.

Agenda item number 9(c) is getting your approval of the list of projects to be submitted for this year's program call for FRA projects, so Bill will also present this minute order.

MR. GLAVIN: This minute order approves the list of potential projects for which the department will submit applications to the Federal Railroad Administration under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. This call for applications was announced on April 1 and has a due date of May 19.

Research completed for the department by Texas Transportation Institute under project number 0-5930, Potential Development of Intercity Transit System in Texas, published in March 2009, ranked corridors in the state based on population, demographics, demand and capacity. From this study, staff selected corridors with rankings of first, second, sixth and seventh for the application submission. The corridors ranked three, DFW to El Paso, and four, DFW to Lubbock, were not selected at this time because further analysis is needed to move forward on those particular projects.

The Houston to San Antonio corridor which was ranked number five was not selected because it is similar to the Houston to Austin corridor which is ranked number seven. Corridor number seven was chosen over number five because a portion of the line in this corridor is owned by Cap Metro. In addition, the Gulf Coast Rail has been working with Union Pacific to develop passenger services on the eastern end of this corridor.

Planning funds awarded under the FRA program will require a 20 percent non-federal match. The department will pursue local funds for the match but will need the guarantee of the 20 percent match for the FRA to consider the applications. This funding will be for the development of service design plans and Tier 1 programmatic level environmental work, both of which are needed for Texas to be eligible for future rounds of the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail funding.

The department has received support from both the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Louisiana Department of Transportation for the development of the corridors that extend into their states.

The department is not submitting any projects for the construction funding because there were no projects that were both shovel-ready and had the requisite 50 percent local fund match available. We had some projects that had the 50 percent, we had some projects that were shovel-ready, but none of them were coincidental.

The staff recommends approval of this minute order.

MR. HOUGHTON: Any questions, Commissioners? Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, Bill. You'll be able to do the feasibility studies, the ridership studies if we get some of this money?

MR. GLAVIN: That is correct.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you.

Agenda item number 10, James Bass will come up and present a minute order requesting your approval of the Unified Transportation Program.

MR. BASS: Thank you, Mr. Saenz. Once again for the record, I'm James Bass, chief financial officer at TxDOT.

Item 10(a) would approve the allocation and programming amounts for Categories 1 through 12 and 11-PA which is Programming Authority for the period of 2010 through 2020. This document was before you last month in a draft form and we had it posted out on the internet. We received some comment primarily from our UTP working group that had been formed and established earlier in the year. They had a lot of good comments that we were able to incorporate into the text portion of the document, the lead-in and introduction portion, so I think it's improved from the draft we had last month. I certainly think as we continue through the planning process there's other opportunities to improve the presentation of the information in this document.

Having said that, I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have, but staff would recommend your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: Would you consider this a very fluid document?

MR. BASS: It's a fluid process, I'm not sure I would use fluidity to describe this document.

MR. HOUGHTON: Fluid as to funding, revenue sources?

MR. BASS: Yes. As we mentioned last month, this document is based upon our November 2009 forecast, and anytime in the planning process from time to time you have to take a snapshot in time and then build a plan based upon that. The unfortunate news that I continue to come back to you month after month and deliver is that our revenues, at least our primary revenue source, the state motor fuel tax, continues to be in decline, not only to be lower than what we had projected but lower than what the state was receiving twelve months prior. So if we were to do a snapshot today and build a UTP upon that, it would not be quite as thick, it might be a little bit smaller than this one because we now forecast to have less funding available than we did back in November.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So you're saying that the boat won't carry as many but more than likely the boat is sinking?

MR. BASS: It's not a good picture.

MR. HOUGHTON: With that great news, is there a motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: James, thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Agenda item 10(b) was a minute order to amend our current Statewide Preservation Program of the 2007 UTP to add a project here, but is that project included in the 10(a)?

MR. BASS: Correct. 10(b) is no longer needed because of the adoption of 10(a).

MR. SAENZ: Just to make sure we have belts and suspenders, let's put it on both, just in case.

MR. BASS: Item 10(b) would add that project and would amend the 2007 UTP which I think has now been repealed because of 10(a), but it would add that to the aforementioned earlier UTP 2007, and staff would recommend your approval.

MR. HOUGHTON: We don't need a motion, do we?

MR. MEADOWS: He wants a motion.

MR. HOUGHTON: You do want a motion?

MR. SAENZ: I'd like to get a motion just in case. I want to put belts and suspenders.

MR. HOUGHTON: You want the locals to feel secure that we are going to build that bridge over the Neches River?

MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir. This is the project that Randy was talking about.

MR. HOUGHTON: The I-10 project?

MR. SAENZ: Yes, sir, on I-10.

MR. HOUGHTON: The deck change, the utilities, the whole works. Randy, do you want this motion?

MR. REDMOND: Please, sir. I like belts and suspenders.

MR. HOUGHTON: You like belts and suspenders. Motion?

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: There you go, Randy, you've got your project.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, James.

Agenda item 11, James will present our Legislative Appropriations Request report.

MR. BASS: This is a continuing discussion, I believe, that was in the December meeting we began discussions on the department's development of an appropriations request for 2012 and 2013. As we've gone through the process, it's time for our discussions to be a little more focused and the direction from the commission to be a little more focused to the department, and I have a number of questions to get your feedback on today as we continue that development of the Legislative Appropriations Request.

One of those deals with the funding from the State Highway Fund, and there are a number of assumptions that the department could make in the level of funds that would be available to TxDOT. As you're well aware, while TxDOT is the primary beneficiary or user of the State Highway Fund, there are other agencies who also utilize that fund.

So the question to get feedback from the commission is should the department make an assumption that the other agencies who receive funds out of the State Highway Fund will receive a flat amount, a level amount going into 2012 and 2013? Should the department assume that those agencies are going to receive zero, such that the department would be requesting all of the dollars coming into the State Highway Fund? Or should it be something different than those two bookend options? I wanted to check and see if the commission had an opinion or a direction on that matter.

MR. MEADOWS: Do we need to respond in some sort of order?

MR. BASS: I am open and ready to take notes.

MR. MEADOWS: I assume that wasn't a rhetorical question.

MR. BASS: No, it was not.

MR. MEADOWS: You're actually looking for some sort of direction.

MR. BASS: Yes.

MR. MEADOWS: This is a good discussion to have. It just seems to me that you've got to put this in a broader state budgetary perspective and step back and say given the challenges that are associated with that, to do anything but to keep to 2010-2011 levels, it would be a mistake. That's my sense of it.

MR. BASS: And just for those who may not be as familiar, within the Legislative Appropriations Request there's really two major components: there's a baseline request which is what I was referring to here within that baseline request, and then there's an area for those unfunded needs that's referred to as exceptional items. And so by doing this, it will limit the amount we put in that baseline request but it no way limits how much we ask for in total from the legislature.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, and I think the other commissioners have in my hand, Statewide Transportation Advocates, and one of the initiatives on here, it talks about amends the Texas Constitution to permit the Comptroller to adjust the rate of state tax on motor vehicles annually, indexing, phases out DPS funding with gas tax, vehicle registration fees diversion, authorizes voter-approved county motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fees to fund road, rail and transit projects, allow revenue from the 10-cent state motor fuel tax to fund rail and transit as well as roads. So the answer to your question is: over time, phase it out.

MR. MEADOWS: As we talk about exceptional items, that's different than what's being asked here, that's why you distinguish between the two.

MR. BASS: Correct. And the next item I had on our discussion was on the exceptional items, and again, I think I know the answer but I certainly don't want to assume. I want to make sure the commission has the opportunity to provide that guidance. So do we just, in our overall appropriations request, do we merely request what current funding sources would be able to deliver, minus whatever goes to other agencies, or as we did last time, do we deliver more of a not necessarily a full-needs base but a capacity, what could be delivered if funding was available utilizing our partners in the private sector, and that the difference between what we could deliver and what is currently available in identified funding sources, that is what would go into that exceptional items request.

Through the technical process of the LAR that we work with the Legislative Budget Board, we would be required in the document to request General Revenue funds for that exceptional item. That may look odd because it will likely be billions of dollars and we all know that the projections are the state is going to be 14 to 19 billion short. That's the way the process has been structured in the past.

But to your point, Commissioner Houghton, those exceptional items, I think the point that could be made is yes, technically in the process we had to ask for General Revenue because that's the way it works, but if the gas tax were to be indexed or if the legislature wanted to adjust registration fees or any variety of things the legislature may choose to do, if that brought in additional revenue, here are the items, the work areas and the projects they could be directed to.

MR. HOUGHTON: I think we did a marvelous job, this department, on the ARRA funds. We had to hit the market fast, get them approved, get them on the ground, shovel-ready. In the exceptional items I would imagine we have a list of projects that are ready to go in the biennium that you could obligate those funds over that biennium period. How long were we given on the ARRA funds?

MR. SAENZ: One year.

MR. HOUGHTON: One year. Well, we have about that, a little more, we've got two years to obligate those funds. I would think that exceptional items ought to be with those projects that we have that haven't hit the ARRA, have not been funded, that are ranked, I think John and his crew would go to that and say, Here you go, we've got these ready to go in the next biennium.

MR. BASS: As you may well know, Mr. Casteel and the districts have been developing a four-year work plan that will be project-specific, and right now it is what could be delivered, not necessarily given a financial constraint, it will definitely have those two elements in there, so we would know out of that four-year work plan which projects and which activities are in that baseline request, and then which projects could be advanced if some or all of the exceptional items were granted or approved.

MR. MEADOWS: Well, how much overlap, I'm just curious, would there be between that four-year plan as it's developed out and the list that we had put together at the legislature's request of the 100 most congested segments of roadway in the state?

MR. BASS: I'm not sure of the exact overlap, that's something we can certainly answer and focus.

MR. HOUGHTON: I'm all for saying here's the things that are needed as defined by our partners across the State of Texas and here's how they're ranked. There's been a tremendous amount of input from around the state as to which projects should make that list.

MR. BASS: So on those two items, what I'm generally hearing is assume other agencies are seeing the same level as they did in '10 and '11 for '12 and '13.

MR. MEADOWS: In baseline.

MR. BASS: In the baseline, and then do request in the exceptional items area what could be delivered in that same time frame off of the four-year work plan.

MR. HOUGHTON: I think so.

MR. BASS: The other question deals with Proposition 12 Bonds. As you know, the constitutional amendment approved $5 billion, and in effect, the legislature last year identified or committed three out of that $5 billion, so the question is, and again, I think I know the answer: Does the commission want to request that fourth and fifth billion, and if so, how do you want that directed? As you know, one of the $3 billion of the Proposition 12 is directed to the State Infrastructure Bank. Out of this remaining $2 billion, would the commission want to request any of that $2 billion to be an additional deposit into the State Infrastructure Bank, or do we want to direct it all into construction activities, the right of way and the engineering associated with it?

MR. HOUGHTON: With that said, I want to go back to the Infrastructure Bank a little bit. I think we have rules, not rules, legislation, statute that would allow us to do certain things out of the Infrastructure Bank. I think that would have to change first prior to any more money going in, because we're currently limited on what we can do out of the State Infrastructure Bank.

MR. BASS: And one thing to clarify, there's a couple of points here, and the color of money into either the State Infrastructure Bank or into the Revolver has importance, and my point is the constitutional language for Proposition 12 includes the phrase "to fund highway improvement projects." As you'll recall during last session, the concept of the Revolver, well, it could have assisted port, transit, other modes of transportation, but if Proposition 12 was the funding source in the Revolver, it would still be Proposition 12 and it would still be limited to only highways, and it would be limited, again from informal conversations with the Public Finance Division of the Attorney General's Office, it would be limited to merely making loans, making direct progress payments and making loans, not more of the reserve model that we had talked about before. So there's a structure issue and a source of money issue, if you will.

MR. MEADOWS: I think we need to see that clarified or developed further simply because the credit enhancement prospect certainly had great value, as we've seen over the last twelve months. If we had had a Revolver fund, if you will, that had the latitude or flexibility to credit-enhance, we wouldn't have had the sort of discussions that we had back in the earlier part of this year with regard to the advancement of that 161 project, so having that latitude and flexibility and ability to leverage dollars to yield greater projects.

MR. HOUGHTON: Legislatively, we're restricted, obviously.

MR. MEADOWS: We need to figure that out. I think we all know what the goal is: to be able to leverage that dollar to deliver more projects for the citizens. Now, how do you do that? You know, the model that we currently have or what's currently in existence and being utilized with the additional capitalization of the last session or the special session really is a tool but it's really not as valuable of a tool as it could be.

MR. BASS: We'll provide your offices information on that kind of two-sided issue, if you will, of structure and then the color of money and the ability that it can do. In the appropriations request, and it would go, I believe, into the exceptional item area that I was talking about, at this point are you comfortable with giving any direction? And by the way, I'll be back next month as well and then be back in June. Are you comfortable at this point giving any direction on that additional $2 billion of Prop 12, or do you want to wait and see, get some more information on that?

MR. HOUGHTON: I think the full commission ought to be involved in that.

MR. BASS: Okay.

MR. MEADOWS: And I agree and I think you need to explore what the latitude is. You can have some conversations that will help us make a more informed decision with some subsequent conversations about this.

MR. HOUGHTON: It wouldn't be fair to carve out Houston at this point in time without Commissioner Holmes in the room.

(General laughter.)

MR. BASS: I will make a note of that proposal, though.

The next item deals with the level of full-time equivalents for the department. As we've had discussions over the past months, we're currently operating below our allocated level, and so again, just to make sure.

MR. HOUGHTON: What is our current level?

MR. BASS: Our current cap is just over 14,000.

MR. HOUGHTON: Where are we today as far as FTEs?

MR. BASS: We are utilizing, through March, and there's two different numbers, without overtime we're about 12,000, and with overtime we're about 12,200 out of a cap of just over 14,000.

MR. HOUGHTON: So bottom line here is you're funding your shortfall.

MR. BASS: Motor fuel tax shortfall is being offset by operating costs savings through vacancies.


MR. BASS: Pardon?


MR. BASS: Yes, sir. And so in the past, because generally what happens if an agency give up or gets their FTE allocation reduced, it's a permanent reduction, it's not necessarily you go down one biennium and go up the next. So historically speaking, the department had requested, and we've been much closer to the actual cap, but had just requested to continue that cap and then know that the commission and the department would manage and come in lower if the workload was lower, as we've been doing.

The concern now, from a financial perspective, is if we put in 14,000 FTEs, we need to put the dollars for those 14,000 FTEs in the various strategies. In days gone by, as we managed that and saw we were 1,000 under, as an example, we could have transferred those dollars on our own back into construction or maintenance activities. Now in order to make that transfer under the current rules, we need to go and get approval from the Legislative Budget Board. I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing, it's just a process that takes time to do.

Would the commission want us to request continuing that cap at just over 14,000 or make a request much lower, more in the neighborhood of 12,200 or 12,500 to provide some upward flexibility in that FTE allocation if additional funds came in? And so that's the general question.

MR. HOUGHTON: I'm not yet prepared to answer that one, I'm thinking through that.

MR. BASS: If we request, say, 12,200 rather than 14,000, those dollars associated with that 1,800 FTEs, we would be able to then put in our baseline request for construction or maintenance activities.

MR. HOUGHTON: What percent of our budget is employees' payroll, 65-70?

MR. BASS: Oh, no. Way lower because contractor payments are part of our overall budget. Our overall budget, $8 billion and we don't come anywhere close to 40 percent of that.

MR. HOUGHTON: And I should have amended that question just a little bit. They have payroll, our consultants have payroll, so we're utilizing consultants almost like our employees.

MR. BASS: Right, an extension of staff.

MR. HOUGHTON: An extension. The number has got to be pretty significant when you talk about people costs.

MR. BASS: Roughly speaking, an average FTE out of our budget is in the neighborhood of $40,000 for round numbers.

MR. HOUGHTON: That's fully loaded?

MR. BASS: That's our budget. There's another 30 percent, another $12,000 that comes out of the Highway Fund but since it's employee benefits such as insurance or retirement, it hits either the Employees Retirement System, their budget, or the Comptroller's Office, but it still comes out of the State Highway Fund.

MR. UNDERWOOD: That's part of the expense is the people that are not even with us anymore.

James, I'm not comfortable right now to sit here and say 14,000, go to 12,200. I'm not going to ever probably agree to 12,000 anyway because I feel like right now we're lean and mean as we can be. From just the districts I've been to, we probably need more employees than 12,200 or 12,000 plus 200 overtime, so let's really look into this a little bit more before we dash out there and try to say push money from one pot to the other and whatnot and then turn back around and say, Gee, whiz, it's great, we've got all these roads, we don't have anybody to help us.

MR. BASS: What we can do between now and next month's workshop is provide your offices more information on FTEs, and the districts have developed a resource plan built around that four-year work plan as to how many FTEs they would need and how many outsourcing functions they would need to do as well or resources they would need.

MR. MEADOWS: I would encourage you to contact us.

MR. BASS: Okay, I will certainly do that.


MR. BASS: The next one is just an update on the riders in the Appropriations Bill. We're currently going through the process of having the divisions review and comment on those, and we would expect to bring a package of those riders and any recommended changes to those at next month's workshop or regular commission meeting.

The last item I had today deals with the rail functions of the department, and whether or not in the appropriations request the commission had a desire to kind of highlight, increase the transparency around those rail functions by creating a separate goal and then strategies underneath to highlight the resources the department has been allocated to deliver on these rail functions.

Due to some timing constraints, the department actually has submitted a request to the LBB through the Strategic Plan process, and that was, I think, the third page in your packet. Obviously, if this is something the commission does not want, we can easily retract that request from the LBB, but the timing and their deadline just did not work well with commission meetings. So I wanted to see if the commission had a desire to pull those out and kind of highlight the resources for the rail functions.


MR. BASS: Those are all the items associated with the Legislative Appropriations Request that I had. We'll be getting back to your offices on a couple of those, and again, you'll be seeing us next month on this same topic and probably adding some more to it and we'll provide you some information in advance on those additional topics.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, James. You're next again, aren't you?

MR. BASS: I am next.

MR. SAENZ: James will now present agenda item number 12, our Obligation Limit Report.

MR. BASS: And one last thing on the Legislative Appropriations Request, our plan still is to in June deliver the draft Legislative Appropriations document to the commission and our expectation is that it will be due to the Legislative Budget Board in late August. That's the historic time period that we're asked to submit it. We have not yet gotten the instructions or the deadline, but that's still the plan going forward.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So you say we're going to be on time this time with delivering of that product?

MR. BASS: Yes. We'll have a draft to the commission in June, you'll have plenty of time to review and comment on the full package, and then we'll be able to submit it in August, yes, sir.

As Mr. Saenz said, I think the next item is the Obligation Limit Report. There's no action required by the commission on this item, it's merely just an update on the status of our $1.6- obligation authority. At this time there's not a need to adjust that down. There are a couple of districts with the amount that has been let and what's scheduled to be let for the remainder of the year that might force them over a little bit. Staff continues to work with those districts and kind of adjust the schedule to make sure that no one district over-commits in this current year.

MR. HOUGHTON: Who might those districts be?

MR. BASS: One of those right now is Atlanta is the largest one; all of the others are more than likely within an acceptable range. One of the problems is we don't allow them to go over by anything that might leave money on the table and a project on the table, so we're not holding it to the penny, we're trying to be reasonable. But the Atlanta District is about $8 million over and all of that is within the schedule so we'll work with them on scheduling those projects. And some of those, what we've found as we worked with the districts, some of those are technicalities in how some of the dollars are being counted, and through those discussions sometimes we discover that they shouldn't be counted as we have been doing so.

The last thing is just an update on the motor fuel tax, and through April it's about 2 percent lower than it was for the same period last year, so we appear to be on pace. 2009 was roughly $50 million less than 2008, and it appears that 2010 is going to be another $50- to $60 million lower than 2009.

MR. UNDERWOOD: It's not $50- and $50-, it was $50- last year and it will be $50- this year. Isn't that correct?

MR. BASS: No. 2010 will be $100 million lower than 2008.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So it will be actually double, it will be about a 4 percent change.

MR. BASS: Correct, if you go back to 2008. And then we're refining those forecasts for gasoline and diesel. In some of them, just the initial reaction is, I guess, hard to believe. In some of the models we've run through, it's 2016 or 2018 before we get back to 2008 levels.

MR. MEADOWS: Is diesel still, percentage-wise, disproportionately high?

MR. BASS: Yes.

MR. MEADOWS: For example, give me last month.

MR. BASS: Well, for year-to-date, and I apologize, for year-to-date, gasoline is roughly eight-tenths of 1 percent higher, and diesel is around 8 percent lower. So again, the decline is being driven by the economy, being driven by diesel freight.

MR. MEADOWS: That's significant, I mean, it is for us to consider from a policy perspective.

MR. BASS: And so the projections, we're looking at various indices to see which ones have matched diesel collections over time and then to use that going forward.


MR. BASS: Other than that, I'm happy to answer any questions on that item, or if not, I thank you, as always.

MR. HOUGHTON: Okay. James, thanks.

MR. BASS: Thank you.

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, James.

Agenda item number 13 deals with contracts, and David Casteel, or John Barton is pinch-hitting for David Casteel, who I had on my list, and will present the minute orders on this month's letting of projects, both on the maintenance side and also on the highway construction and enhancement project side.

MR. BARTON: Again for the record, my name is John Barton, assistant executive director for Engineering Operations, pinch-hitting for David Casteel who had to meet with a constituent.

Item 13(a)(1) that is before you is for the consideration of the award or rejection of Highway Maintenance and Department Building Construction contracts that were let on April 6 and 7 of 2010, earlier this month. We had 31 projects that we took bids on with a total award amount of $23.9 million. The average number of bidders for these projects was 3.94 bidders per project, and we did have overall, Commissioner Houghton, 11.3 percent underrun on maintenance projects. Staff would recommend award of all the maintenance and building contracts.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you.

MR. BARTON: Item 13(a)(2) is for the consideration of the award or rejection of Highway and Transportation Enhancement Building Construction contracts that were, again, let on April 6 and 7 of this month. We had 61 projects that we took bids on for a total award amount of just over $268 million. There were an average of 5.3 bidders per project and the total underrun of 16.3 percent. Staff would recommend award of all construction projects.

MR. HOUGHTON: Did you change the correction that Commissioner Meadows proudly notes that he found on the document?

MR. MEADOWS: That was on maintenance.

MR. HOUGHTON: On maintenance? We already passed that, didn't we? Too late.

MR. MEADOWS: I'm just curious.

MR. HOUGHTON: We put it in the El Paso District.

MR. MEADOWS: Well, I knew that's where everything ends up at the end of the day.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: We made that correction.

MR. SAENZ: The minute order is correct, sir. It was in the posting, and in the posting it was showing a project in the Fort Worth District, control section number BMP619937001. It was showing Tarrant County; it is Tarrant County. It was showing I-10; it should be Interstate 20.

MR. BARTON: The minute order is correct, the posting was incorrect, and as usual, Commissioner Houghton had undue influence over preparation of our documents, I suppose.

MR. MEADOWS: That's why I'm paying attention.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, we just get what you spill in Dallas-Fort Worth.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: A motion on this item?

MR. MEADOWS: So moved.


MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. SAENZ: Thank you, John.

Commission, agenda item number 14 is the Routine Minute Orders dealing with designation of controlled access, donations to the department, eminent domain proceedings, finance, highway designations, load zones and postings, right of way disposition and donations, and speed zones. These are all routine minute orders.

I do want to announce that agenda item number 14(g)(1) in the area of right of way dispositions and donations, that minute order will be pulled and deferred until next month. All other minute orders, staff recommends approval.

MR. MEADOWS: So moved.


MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. SAENZ: There is no executive session.

MR. HOUGHTON: None, no executive session.

This concludes all items on the regular agenda. If there is no need for an executive session, we'll enter into the open comment period which we have a few. Wait a minute, did Judge Eckels leave? Where is the Judge?

MR. SAENZ: I think he did.

MR. HOUGHTON: He did leave, so he spoke briefly about the high-speed rail.

Martin Nash. Martin, are you here? Did he stick around? No Martin.

Fulton Mack? Mr. Mack, you've been waiting patiently all this time.

MR. MACK: I want to thank you for accepting my comments here. We have a drainage problem out where Bayou Din goes under Interstate 10. It floods three county roads to where it's impassable with a regular passenger car. This doesn't happen often but it's happened many times down through the years. We have culvert under the two previous road crossings, Mack Road which is where I live, and then West Club Road, they both have seven-foot square culverts under them. The culvert under Interstate 10 is five-by-eight feet and it has an offset in the middle of it which also slows down the flow of water.

I know the conventional way of repairing this would cause interruption of traffic on Interstate 10, but you talked a while ago about putting a 30-inch culvert under the Neches River, so I'm thinking a 36-inch, maybe two or three under that point without disturbing the traffic on the highway would give us some relief for this flooding that we have to go through.

I have some information for you on DVD that shows some problems that our county had with the flooding on the road. I also have some pictures here showing you the flooding that happened back on Memorial Day of 2006, and I'd like to leave that with you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you, sir.

MR. MACK: One other comment, I shared this information with Duane Browning with TxDOT here in Beaumont and I also shared it with Doug Kannet with Drainage District 6, and I've received no information that this problem is going to be corrected. Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: I have one question. Is east of Mack Road to Boyett Road, is Mack Road named after you?

MR. MACK: Well, it's after my family. So far I've lived there 79 years.

MR. HOUGHTON: My heavens. Congratulations.

MR. MACK: Lived in three houses. Me and my wife have moved two times in the last 64 years; both times you could throw a rock from one house to the other.

MR. MEADOWS: Just can't stay still.

MR. MACK: Just can't stay still, just got to keep moving.

(General laughter.)

MR. HOUGHTON: I appreciate your input today and we'll make sure this gets attention.

MR. MACK: I'd just like to get some attention to the problem, that's all I'm looking for.

MR. HOUGHTON: Well, you've adequately done that today. Thank you.

MR. HOUGHTON: Thank you very much.

MR. MACK: You're welcome.

MR. MEADOWS: Thank you, sir.

MR. HOUGHTON: And thanks for waiting.

Is there anything further to come before the commission? It's 35 minutes after, and I'll entertain a motion to adjourn.

MR. UNDERWOOD: So moved.

MR. MEADOWS: Second.

MR. HOUGHTON: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

MR. HOUGHTON: We are adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 11:35 a.m., the meeting was concluded.)


MEETING OF: Texas Transportation Commission Workshop
Special Meeting
LOCATION: Beaumont, Texas
DATE: April 29, 2010
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 114, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Nancy King before the Texas Transportation Commission.

(Transcriber) (Date)

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