By Gary Fickes
Tarrant County Commissioner
A little less than two years ago, 650 people gathered at the Hurst Conference Center for an annual event, which I had hosted for 11 consecutive years, to discuss the evolving trends in mobility and where transportation in our region was headed.
Beyond the interesting topics and excellent speaker lineup we’d assembled, the event had really become an opportunity for elected leaders, business executives, transportation planners and the general public to meet, network and build beneficial relationships that had become the hallmark of the incredible accomplishments we’ve had in advancing transportation investment in North Texas. That day, Feb.14, 2020, ironically turned out to be one of the last, large public gatherings any of us would attend for nearly two years. So, with much excitement and anticipation, I can announce that the 12th Annual Tarrant Transportation Summit will return this year to the Hurst Conference Center on Thursday, Feb.10. We are so glad to be back, and I’ve never been happier to see all of you!
In the two years since we last met, there has been a seismic paradigm shift in the way we live, travel, interact with each other, and use technology. The supply chain, which has been a primary focus topic at past summits, has become the single-most important component of our global economy. Allow me to elaborate. At the last summit, we were talking about a future with flying cars, but now we’d just be happy if we could go to a dealership and buy a car off the lot. We also use them less. Two years ago, we traveled in our cars every day and for almost every business meeting, while today we use videoconferencing for probably three-quarters of them.
Indeed, much has changed as a result of the pandemic. Despite the root cause, many of those changes have positively affected the North Texas economy, as thousands of people have left population centers on the east and west coasts for the quality of life that our region provides. With the passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill earlier this year, we will also see an unprecedented investment in our regional transportation system. With focused leadership (and a little luck), we’ll be able to fast-track legacy projects that have been teed up for years but lacked a viable funding source to be completed.
At this year’s summit, we’re going to focus on the “Dollars and Sense” of it all and where we’re headed in the wake of the pandemic. This year’s lineup is one of the best we have ever put together, highlighted by our keynote speaker, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. He’ll be providing an updated financial outlook for our state and region, bringing some clarity on the available resources we will be able to commit to transportation and infrastructure investment in the foreseeable future. We’ll also hear from Lloyd Potter, our state’s demographer, who will break down our population growth numbers and where we’ll likely need to focus that investment.
TRTC Chairman (and former Arlington Mayor) Jeff Williams will lead a conversation with Hillwood’s Russell Laughlin, NCTCOG Director of Transportation Michael Morris and TRTC Executive Director (and former Transportation Commissioner) Victor Vandergriff, covering the status of our regional priority projects and what must be done to ensure their advancement. We are also hosting transit leaders from DART, Harris County METRO, and (our own) Trinity Metro, who will discuss the changing landscape of public transportation and how their agencies are leveraging technology to create more efficient systems of getting people from one point to another. And, finally, we will hear from several of Tarrant County’s most important private sector companies working in the areas of mobility innovation, as well as an update from NTE Mobility Partners’ Robert Hinkle on the success of our regional managed lane program. You’ll be surprised to hear the incredible strides they’ve made during the past couple of years – much of it centered right here in Tarrant County!
Overall, we’ve assembled one of our best programs ever, and certainly our most timely. Beyond the program and everything it will cover, I am most excited about the opportunity for all of us to be together again.
While it’s only been two years since we hit the pause button, it’s felt like an eternity. It has never felt so good to say, “I’ll see you at this year’s Tarrant Transportation Summit.”
Registrations are being accepted online. Individual registration is $75.
Gary Fickes has been a member of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court since 2006, representing Precinct 3, which includes two major airports and a number of major freeways. He is a former mayor of Southlake and past chair of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition and Regional Transportation Council through the North Central Texas Council of Governments.