Last week, I attended an open house hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The purpose of the open house was to communicate cycling related projects to the Central Texas cycling community. I shared my intent with my social network and a few responded that they would be interested to hear how it went. Overall, I have to give TxDOT an ‘A’ for making an effort to communicate what projects they had on the board for the next three years and how they affected cyclists. Each project was clearly identified on a map indicating what sections of our roadways were affected and in what year they expected to work on it. I was even provided a detailed project list that explained what the project was and whether or not it could be accommodated to benefit cyclists. Let me tell you, they have a lot on their plate and with looming budget shortfalls, things are not going to get any easier.
Despite that, I learned that a mandate had been issued that all projects should consider how to accommodate cyclists as long as it could be done at a reasonable cost. In many instances, TxDOT is collaborating with counties on projects where the county is the project lead. In these instances, they assist the counties with their expertise and provide some funds for the project. The fact that they’re thinking about cyclists allows them to offer some leadership to benefit Central Texas cyclists that might otherwise be overlooked. TxDOT also made sure they had plenty of staff on hand to answer any questions I had and encouraged me to provide my feedback. The staff that was there included individuals from most of the county offices in Central Texas. I imagine that they were there to learn what cyclists cared about and how roads could be improved to make them more cycle friendly. Once again, I have to commend TxDOT for making the effort to learn how they can help me and my fellow riders. I always feel fortunate to live where I do because it only takes me about 10 minutes to get to roads that are great for cycling. Combined with the awesome weather we have most of the year, I get to enjoy riding quite a bit.
As always, I learned quite a few things that evening. Aside from considering the safety of cyclists on upcoming projects, I learned that there are some services available to help insure the safety of cyclists on all existing roads maintained by TxDOT. We’ve had very little rain and some pretty cold weather over the winter. As a result, there are quite a few roads I ride on regularly that were damaged over the winter. I’ve noticed quite a few large cracks and new potholes along some of my regular routes. Surprises like these can have disastrous consequences for the unsuspecting cyclist. I had my own encounter with one of these that almost did me in last fall. Fortunately, TxDOT has a solution to this issue. They offer both an online site to report a pothole as well as a telephone number (see image above). This really works. I’m not sure who reported the pothole I hit, but it was fixed within a week. Central Texas has a wide variety of soil conditions that make it a real challenge for road builders. Fortunately, TxDOT has some pretty smart people working for them who understand these issues and, for the most part, do a pretty good job keeping them in good shape. I’ve ridden in other states and I have to say, we’re very fortunate here in Central Texas. So, if you have concerns or want to share your thoughts, let them know, they’re listening.