The December 2016 Williamson County Growth Summit held at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center was much different from previous ones. Unlike other times where most of the discussions are based on the city itself, this time they focused on issues to improve transportation structures. Among the discussion panel members sat Mike Heiligenstein – the Director of Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Leandre Johns the external affairs director at Texas, Joseph Kopser the founder of RideScout LLC among other notable legends in the transportation industry. The dialogue focused on how technology was impacting transportation in Austin region and worldwide.
Heiligenstein stressed on the importance of investing in increasing transportation capacity by building more and better roads in Austin. He also acknowledged the fact that latest technologies including driverless vehicles and ridesharing applications could drastically improve transportation, keeping in mind the increase in population in suburbs. Ficklin one of the panel members also called attention to the importance of building land-use codes that are flexible. Ficklin is a designer with Argo Design’s a transportation-focused product. He is the great brain behind an aerial gondola system that was proposed for Central Austin.
Heiligenstein serves as the Executive Director at Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority in Austin, a role he took up in 2003. He graduated from University of Texas with a Bachelor’s degree and two masters thereafter. He started his career at Round Rock City as a Council member where he served for more than seven years before moving to the position of a County Commissioner at Williamson County for fifteen years. Mr. Heiligenstein is also the President at International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. He sits at the advisory Board of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute among other transport related commissions.
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is an autonomous government agency that was created in 2002. Its sole purpose is to improve the transportation structure majorly in two counties in Central Texas- Travis and Williamson. The Authority was created under the Texas Transportation Code Chapter 370 and operates under the state law with an aim of executing an array of transportation systems among them road, air and water transport. Its main financing options are issued of revenue bonds, fees and taxes. It hires specialized contractors from private sector to provide expert support for projects. The administration of the Authority comprises of seven directors, a governor who selects the chairman, while the two counties each appoint three members.