Grand Prairie was named Air North Texas Partner of the Year for the second straight year in November. The City developed a comprehensive campaign including website content, social media promotion, newsletter articles about air quality and promotion of Air North Texas.
The city encouraged companies to compete against one another to determine who could commit to the most new clean air initiatives through the Clean Air Action Challenge. A total of 647 pledges were made by companies in the City, with Lockheed Martin leading the way.
Dallas was recognized for its Outstanding Effort in Outreach. Dallas used its website, social media platforms and advertising to promote Air North Texas, encouraging the public and its employees to make clean air commitments. Additionally, Dallas earned the Arlo Ambassador Award for incorporating Arlo the Airmadillo into a social media campaign encouraging participation in Air North Texas.
Plano was recognized for its Outstanding Effort in Partner Involvement. The Live Green in Plano air quality webpage included information about Air North Texas, while encouraging visitors to become partners.
For the third consecutive year, the Hood County Clean Air Coalition earned the award for Outstanding Effort in Advertising. The Coalition sponsored three public service announcements that discussed car commitments, home commitments and smoking vehicles. The award for Outstanding Effort in Initiative went to the University of North Texas Health Science Center, which created its own Clean Air Action Day pledge to increase campus involvement and award participation.
A total of 116 people took the pledge. Air North Texas aims to help improve air quality as 10 North Texas counties strive to meet the Environmental Protection Agency regulation for ozone pollution.
The first phase of the multibillion improvement of Interstate Highway 35E north of LBJ Freeway is substantially complete, meaning vehicles traveling to and from Denton on the eastern side of the region now have smoother commutes. The project, known as 35 Express, involved expansion of approximately 30 miles of IH 35E between LBJ and US Highway 380 and has been a top priority of the Regional Transportation Council’s for several years.
The Texas Department of Transportation and public officials along the corridor celebrated the milestone with a ribbon cutting in early November. The project included reversible TEXpress Lanes, rebuilt general-purpose lanes and continuous frontage roads. The TEXpress Lanes opened in May and run 18 miles, providing motorists an option to pay for smoother drives if the adjacent lanes are congested. They can use the general-purpose lanes and frontage roads for no additional charge.
The $1.4 billion project was funded from a mix of federal, state and local sources.
By Michael Morris, Director of Transportation
Epiphany is defined as "a grasp of reality through one event usually simple and striking." The occasion for me was the Fort Worth ISD 2017 Academic Chairs For Teaching Excellence, held on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. This program created an interest and a volunteer opportunity for me to assist the Fort Worth School District. The assignment was to serve on 1 of 16 committees to review teacher applications, letters of support and conduct interviews. Pretty routine, yet rewarding.
I was flattered as a committee member to be invited to the recognition event, but unprepared. After hearing from sponsors highlighting their commitment to teaching excellence and hearing the real world life experiences of the most gifted teachers and the impact on students, I was challenged. In the same one-hour presentation I felt everything I was doing and had done in transportation seemed so miniscule, I also felt that my worst day does not compare to the challenges and home situations in which some of our children live and to which the school district willingly responds without conditions.
This opportunity created a new lens for me and blessed by a very small contribution of volunteering. This lens taught me that a school district does not make changes in big lifts like one of our transportation cranes but through an environment that creates thousands of life changing opportunities for parents, students and the teachers. One encounter at a time, every hour, every school, every day. This new granular perspective has taught me that what I may know to be correct may not be.
It may be too broad, too general, not precise. How often have we all said we know what the answer to urban school needs, and be honest, we really didn't have a clue.
As a community, we have a lot to be thankful for. The collective group is doing well but families in our own neighborhoods are hurting. We need to change our lens, perspective and see. This experience with the FWISD has taught me to get less of my news from others in the confines of my home and more information from life efforts of volunteering, becoming a sponsor, participating in life and listening. We need to get our eyes examined, lenses updated, focus and see from our life experiences not opinions fed to us by our laziness.
Make this holiday season more meaningful, more active, more real, one encounter at a time, every hour, every day.
Michael Morris, P.E.., is director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. A version of this column was published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)
A federally funded study to determine the feasibility of passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and South Texas recently advanced to the next phase allowing for continued exploration of the proposed route.
The $7 million Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study covers an 850-mile corridor broken into three segments going from Oklahoma City to Dallas-Fort Worth; Dallas -Fort Worth to San Antonio; and San Antonio to South Texas.
The next step would be a project-level environmental study to determine actual routes and environmental impacts of the service before construction and start of service.
At this point, a private developer could step forward to determine future project possibilities. -- TxDOT
Entities considering applying for two types of grants offered through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Texas Emissions Reduction Program should act fast. The deadlines for both are approaching early in the new year.
- The Alternative Fueling Facilities Program (AFFP) offers grants for construction or expansion of alternative fuel fueling stations within the Clean Transportation Zone, which includes the 12-county metropolitan planning area. The application deadline is January 16, 2018.
- A simplified first-come, first-served program is offering Rebate Grants for the repower or replacement of diesel heavy-duty vehicles and non-road equipment. The Application deadline is February 13, 2018.
An opportunity through the Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grant Program, which offers grants for the repower or replacement of medium- or heavy-duty vehicles with natural gas or propane, is coming soon. Program details and application instructions for these programs can be found at www.terpgrants.org.
Need to replace a vehicle? Funding may soon be available to help with the purchase, just in time for the holidays.
During December, NCTCOG will open a 2017 Clean Diesel Call for Projects.This opportunity will pay for up to 45 percent of the cost of replacing heavy-duty diesel vehicles or non-road equipment owned by public fleets or private entities contracted to local governments.
For more information on these and other funding opportunities visit www.nctcog.org/aqfunding.
Proposed modifications to the list of funded projects will be available for review during the upcoming online public comment period, scheduled to begin December 11.
A comprehensive list of funded transportation projects through 2020 is maintained in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Projects with committed funds
from federal, state and local sources are included in the TIP. To maintain an accurate project listing, this document is updated on a regular basis.
Information will be online through January 10, 2018, at www.nctcog.org/input. To request printed copies, call 817-608-2365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A demonstration of the new Milo automated shuttle is scheduled for 9 am December 7 at the Globe Life Park Rav4 Parking Lot (on the corner of Nolan Ryan Expressway).
A group discussion on how public transit providers can adapt to the coming of AVs will follow at 11:30 am. NCTCOG will host a workshop at 8 am December 8 about how data from the community-based mapping app Waze can be used to enhance transportation, 911 services and emergency preparedness.
To register for either event and learn more, visit www.nctcog.org/trans/auto.