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The Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, oversees Texas transportation and is headquartered in Austin. The Texas Legislature created the organization in 1917, although the agency has had several names throughout the past century.TxDOT is run by a five-member commission and an executive director selected by the commission. Commission members are appointed by the governor, with the advice of the Texas Senate, and serve overlapping six-year terms.The department is divided into 25 districts, each of which oversees construction and maintenance of state highways. Austin’s district includes Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Lee, Llano, Mason, Travis and Williamson counties.In Austin, the organization encompasses entities including Capital Metro; the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, known as CAMPO; the city’s transportation department; and the chamber of commerce. TxDOT organized the “Don’t Mess with Texas” anti-litter campaign, which began in 1986. Also, it runs the TxTag program, which bills drivers for highway tolls by scanning a sticker on the driver’s windshield at toll stations.

The Joy Of The Highway U-Turn: 'Texas Turnarounds' Keep Drivers Moving

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Terry Ross/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Here's the situation: you're driving down the freeway and miss your exit. But no need to stress – just take the next exit and pull a U-ie at the light. If you're lucky, that intersection will include a "Texas turnaround," making what you've done perfectly legal. But in other states, this traffic device is unknown.

 

Freelance journalist Nick Stockton covers science, tech and transportation. He wrote about the Texas turnaround for Wired Magazine. He discovered the Texas turnaround on a pleasure trip through Texas. He calls them "sublime pieces of architecture."

Stockton says Texans owe easy highway U-turns to former Texas Highway Department Head Engineer DeWitt Greer, who presided when the interstate highway system grew by leaps and bounds in the 1950s and '60s. As the Highway Department (now known as TxDOT) built or expanded highways, they also built frontage roads that allowed landowners, as well as passing motorists to have access to the highway.

"Somebody in the Texas Highway Department realized that getting from one side of the road to the other – from one frontage road to the other frontage road – was kind of a pain," Stockton says. "They came up with this idea to build a little U-turn that bypasses both lights."

Stockton says a few other areas of the country have adopted the turnaround, though not on the large scale Texas has. You'll find turnarounds in Michigan and California, and a few in Florida.

Stockton says the downside to turnarounds is the cost – up to $1 million per on-ramp. 

 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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