The 19th Austin Business Journal’s annual Williamson County Growth Summit was recently held and this time things were different. Rather than focusing on the city itself, the transportation challenges faced by the region were discussed. The panel consisted of several people including Mike Heiligenstein the executive director of Central Texas regional Mobility Authority, Leandre Johns, the director of Uber technologies Inc. Texas External affairs and RideScout LLC founder; Joseph Kosper.
The role of technology in the transportation sector particularly in Austin area was greatly acknowledged in this summit. However, despite this great contribution, Heiligenstein noted that the Austin area needs to grow its transportation capacity. He said that the area needs more roads that are smarter to meet the ever growing needs in the transportation sector. Johns also emphasized this matter saying that commuters in the area needed first and last mile solutions such as ride sharing services of Uber to get people to public transit. This will go a long way in easing congestion.
Last year, it was noted that the congestion in Austin area is bond to increase which necessitates the need for technological solutions. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) is the body entrusted by the government to improve transport in the Williamson and Travis counties. It is made up of seven members with the governor appointing the chairman. Commissioner courts in Travis and Williamson counties appoint three members each. Under the leadership of Heiligenstein, CTRMA has developed several solutions to congestion.
For example, it has built roads such as the 183A Toll road in Cedar Park and Leander which led to massive reduction in congestion. There is also the 290 Toll Road between Austin and Manor. This tripled the road capacity of the existent roads leading to a further reduction in congestion. CTRMA further noted that the congestion is caused by stopping of drivers as a result of minor breakdowns in the vehicles. To reduce instances of stranded motorists, it got into a partnership with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning organization to facilitate a Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO) program. HERO assists such motorist.
One of the reasons behind the success of CTRMA is the great leadership of Heiligenstein. He has been in CTRMA since its inception in 2002 and therefore has extensive experience with the body. He is also the president of International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association and a member of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. He is also involved with other groups that deal with transportation problems in the area.
Follow him @mheiligenstein