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Transportation
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.

Someone Has Died On A Texas Road Every Day For The Last 20 Years

Traffic goes eastbound on Texas 71.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
/
KUT
There has been at least one fatality on Texas roadways every day for the past 20 years.

Saturday marked 20 consecutive years of daily traffic fatalities on Texas roadways. It’s a streak transportation officials want to end, but they know it will be difficult.

“Even with a 44% reduction in traffic in some areas of the state this year, we continue to watch loved ones die due to preventable deaths on our roadways,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said during a recent meeting. “More than 70,000 family members have died since Nov. 7, 2000 – would-be mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. And their families will carry this burden with them forever.”

The Texas Department of Transportation cites causes such as speed, drunken driving and distracted driving as the main causes of crashes that lead to fatalities. Ryan also cited a growing number of fatalities in the past year where victims were not wearing seat belts.

TxDOT’s End The Streak TX campaign encourage drivers to follow safe habits on the roads and spread that message to friends and loved ones.

The agency has also committed to spending $600 million over the next decade on efforts to cut traffic deaths in half by 2035 and end them by 2050. The funding will focus on the areas that have had the most traffic deaths or serious injuries.

“Five years ago, they sort of hadn’t realized that this was a stat,” Jay Blazek Crossley, executive director of the nonprofit Farm and City, said. “And TxDOT is doing tremendous work to turn this around. So the fact that we’re talking about it is crucial.”

But Crossley, who has advocated for Vision Zero efforts over the years, says more work needs to be done. He and other advocates are pushing for new laws in the next legislative session, including a statewide ban on the use of handheld devices while driving and allowing cities to lower speed limits in residential areas.

“We lead the nation in traffic deaths and it's going to take a while to fix that,” Crossley said. “We can, but we're barely started.”

Got a tip? Email Samuel King at samuel@kut.org. Follow him @SamuelKingNews.

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