Transportation Solutions That Enhance the Quality of Life
Shortly after the new Millennium had arrived, it became evident that the Central Texas region was fast evolving as one of the nation’s strongest economies. Austin was consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States. Its popularity was fueled by a vibrant economy, great climate, and plentiful amenities and opportunities. The city’s ranking in 2018 by Forbes in its list of the top ten fastest growing U.S. cities came as little surprise. With a population expected to reach three million by 2030, local lawmakers were faced with the reality that the Central Texas region would continue to attract large numbers of college graduates, families with children, and others pursuing the prospect of a better future and an improved quality of life.
To plan for the present and future transportation needs of the residents and businesses in the area, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (Mobility Authority, or CTRMA) was established by Travis and Williamson Counties in 2002 as the state’s first regional mobility authority. The agency represents the Texas Legislature’s vision to allow local communities greater flexibility in meeting their transportation needs. While the founding goal of the CTRMA was to improve the transportation system in Travis and Williamson Counties, it may be expanded as needs warrant to other counties.
An Ongoing Mission
The original mission of the CTRMA founders, set forth almost 20 years ago, remains key to the role the Mobility Authority plays today – to implement innovative, multi-modal transportation solutions that reduce congestion and create transportation choices that enhance the quality of life and economic vitality in Central Texas. The CTRMA was created by need in the region. While the Mobility Authority was designed to serve Central Texans, its roads both impact and provide access to surrounding counties and communities.
The CTRMA continues to operate today as an independent government agency authorized through state legislation in 2002 to improve the transportation system in Williamson and Travis counties. Founded by and still answering to the Commissioners Courts of both counties, the CTRMA is overseen by a seven-member Board of Directors. The Governor appoints the Chairman, and the Travis and Williamson Counties Commissioners Courts each appoint three members to serve on the Board.
Commitment and Accountability
The Mobility Authority employs a small professional staff of 30 led by Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein, who has been involved with the planning, financing, and construction of infrastructure in Central Texas for almost 40 years. Because of his work with the CTRMA he was elected as President of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. Private sector contractors with specialized expertise are utilized by the CTRMA to provide staffing support for individual projects.
The Mobility Authority is one of nine regional mobility authorities in Texas. The management team is justifiably proud that the Texas A&M Transportation Institute cited the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority as the standard for transparency and accountability by which other regional mobility authorities in Texas should strive to follow.
The Mobility Authority continues to evolve with the support and guidance of Travis and Williamson Counties, and in collaboration with regional partners. Amidst a transportation funding crisis, the agency has delivered critically needed infrastructure for Central Texas in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The toll facilities owned and operated by the Mobility Authority provide the traveling public with reliable transportation options that enhance the quality of life and economic vitality.
The emergence of 183A Toll, 290 Toll, 71 Toll Lane, and MoPac Express Lane has laid the foundation for a comprehensive, regional roadway network that will continue to reduce travel and response times and spur economic development while reducing air pollution and fuel consumption. To further expand mobility options for the traveling public, the agency has established a partnership with Capital Metro whereby Express buses operate toll-free in the MoPac Express Lane. This partnership has led to increased ridership and new transit routes across the region, and plans are in development for additional Park & Ride facilities to serve Mobility Authority customers.
In addition, the Mobility Authority has created and nurtured a long list of like-minded, sustainable partnerships that are committed to achieving its mission. From civic groups, non-profits, local businesses, and special interest groups to schools, the CTRMA works closely with the communities it serves.
The Mobility Authority’s efforts have been recognized with numerous awards, among the most recent being the WTS Heart of Texas Chapter “Innovative Transportation Solutions Award” in 2018 and, in the same year, the Greater Austin Business Awards: Environmental Champion Award for the agency’s efforts to promote sustainability and innovation.
With an eye to the future, the agency is positioned to expand beyond toll roads. Leveraging its ability to deliver such projects in a faster, more cost-effective manner, the CTRMA is developing non-tolled projects for Travis County and is exploring the feasibility of further broadening its portfolio to include additional mobility solutions.