Creating Tomorrow Today

Written by  Bill Hale, P.E.

As we look to the future of transportation in Texas, the Texas Department of Transportation’s 2020 Unified Transportation Program offers us a road map of where we want to go and the areas we want to focus our resources. This past August, the Texas Transportation Commission approved the document that contains a historic $77 billion in planned project investments. The document lays out projects that we’ll develop and funding that we expect to apply to projects over the next decade.

I’ll go over a few of the highlights, namely those regarding safety, improvements to the Permian Basin energy sector, and our continued efforts to work collaboratively with metropolitan planning organizations to address congestion and improve mobility.

The UTP contains $4 billion for safety improvements – including an extra $600 million for the next two fiscal years – to support our Road to Zero initiative that seeks to eliminate all fatalities on our roads by 2050. About $390 million or 65 percent of the funding will go to widen roads, improve median barriers and bridges, and upgrade guardrails. About $120 million will provide intersection improvements, such as upgraded traffic signals and signage.

Last year, more than 3,600 people died in traffic crashes. Of those that resulted in a fatality or serious injury, 41 percent involved roadway departures. These crashes represent 33 percent of all fatalities. The additional funding that the Commission has approved will go to widen roads, improve lighting, install road curve warnings, and add centerline and edge rumble strips.

Here’s another sobering fact: Last year, 6,809 or 39 percent of fatal and serious injury crashes occurred at intersections, accounting for 18 percent of all fatalities. Funding provided in the UTP will help prevent intersection crashes, and includes adding new or upgraded traffic signals, upgrading signage and pavement markings, installing grade separations to eliminate intersection conflict points, and using alternative intersection designs.

With a $600 million commitment by the Commission, we’re also putting a portion of our resources to fund transportation improvements in the state’s bustling Permian Basin energy sector. As one of the largest oil and gas producing regions in the world, the Permian has generated an increased level of truck traffic on largely rural roadways. The additional investment will address road capacity, pavement condition, and traffic safety.

Traffic congestion relief continues to be a priority. Many of the projects in the UTP that address gridlock relief and improve mobility are on roadway segments identified on Texas’ 100 Most Congested Roadways list. About $28 billion in projects will address congestion in the state’s five metro areas – Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio – and other congested corridors around the state.

We continue to work with our MPOs in the metro and urban corridors to improve mobility and, in doing so, have authorized 98 projects worth approximately $1.8 billion. Some projects benefitting from this funding include the I-35 Capital Express project in Austin (north & south segments), the I-820 Southeast Connector in Fort Worth, the I-10/SL 1604 interchange in San Antonio, the SH 286 extension in Corpus Christi and the SL 363 widening project in Waco.

This historic 10-year investment is dedicated to improving safety, addressing congestion and connectivity, and preserving roadways for Texas drivers. You can read the document at TxDOT.gov, keyword UTP; the 2020 version is listed on the UTP homepage. The document’s thousands of projects are also listed in TxDOT’s Project Tracker, which can also be found on the agency’s website.



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