Recently, prominent policymakers and transportation officials in the Austin area gathered at Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center. The gathering marked the 19th year of the Austin Business Journal’s annual Williamson County Growth Summit. The main theme of the conference was future transportation issues in Central Austin and suburbs. Accordingly, speakers also discussed the use of technology to solve transportation problems.
Interestingly, Mike Heiligenstein, a prominent Transit expert, insisted that technology cannot solve traffic problems in Williamson Counties and suburbs, alone. According to Mike, the only solution to the problem is to work on the capacity building of the existing road network. The capacity building should include building new roads, expanding the existing roads to Express lanes, and providing facilities for smart cars of the future.
According to Mike, technological advances such as driver-less cars and ride-sharing transportation models need support to resolve existing growth rates in Williamson County and other such Metropolitan Areas. These transportation models are only effective if there are enough roads to sustain these models. For instance, driver-less cars will need dedicated lanes that have enough facilities to serve these cars. Likewise, ride-sharing can help cope with the traffic, but there needs to be additional Express Lanes to take full advantage of the ride-sharing services. The government and institutions will need to create such an infrastructure to cope with the massive population growth in the area that demands a growing transportation network.
Mike Heiligenstein may be the perfect spokesmen for the issue because he has already built extensive road networks in the Williamson County. As the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, he presides over an independent government body that looks to create transportation choices and reduce congestion in the Central Austin area. In fact, CTRMA is also empowered to issue revenue bonds to fund viable transportation projects.
Already, Mike and his team have crafted practical solution for future needs of the Williamson County. These include the development of all-electronic, cashless toll collection project, 183A in Williamson County. Similarly, the 290 Toll Manor Expressway is another fine project. Creating Express Lanes on MoPac is also an instrumental project to provide the needed relief to traffic congestion problems in the County. In fact, Mike is not alone in offering such ideas. Other experts from Uber, Ride Share and Argo Design also insisted that technologies offered by their companies complements future transportation plans discussed in the conference.