Transportation Summit focuses on growth, partnerships

Transportation Summit (from the left): Michael Morris, Gary Fickes, Oscar Trevino, Betsy Price, Robert Hinkle

Tarrant County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes presided over his 14th and final Tarrant Transportation Summit Friday at the Hurst Conference Center.

Commissioner Fickes launched his transportation summit in early 2010 on the same day as the groundbreaking for the DFW Connector project in Grapevine. On that day, the summit took place in the morning and was followed by the groundbreaking ceremony. Fickes, who has served on the Tarrant County Commissioners Court since 2006, announced last April that he would not seek re-election this year.

This year’s theme was “Surge – Readiness for Exponential Population Growth.” The four sessions before the keynote consisted of:

  • Session #1 –  Surge North & West: There’s Nothing Quiet on the Western Front
  • Session #2 – Surge East: From Grand Prairie to Fort Worth, How Updates to I-30 Support Arlington and the Region’s Diversifying Economic and Mobility Options
  • Session #3 – Surge Central: Fort Worth is Focused on Its Very Bright Future
  • Session #4 –  Surge Northeast: All Roads Lead from Here

The consistent theme throughout the summit was collaboration, as speakers addressed how well their communities had formed partnerships consisting of the county, local cities, Texas Department of Transportation and North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). They gave examples of how their collaborations helped them apply successfully for federal funding.

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One panelist stated that one of the greatest drivers of economic development was having quality transportation in place or in the planning stages.

Following are some key takeaways.

Session #1 North & West:

  • Parker County has established collaborations that have led to partnerships among the county, cities, Texas Department of Transportation, and NCTCOG far more efficiently than ever before.
  • Requests for funding were more fruitful when approaching NCTCOG with a vision and plan rather than just a generic request.

Session #2 Surge East:

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  • The construction of the George W. Bush Turnpike dramatically improved the ability of Grand Prairie to attract new development.
  • The City of Arlington is testing its logistics capabilities with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game this summer to prepare for the upcoming World Cup.

Session #3 Surge Central:

  • The Fort Worth-Dallas Metro is projected by some researchers to become the highest population center in America by 2100.
  • The Fort Worth Stockyards area generates over 9 million attendees per year, which is more than the famed Eiffel Tower in Paris attracts.
  • The City of Fort Worth declines a lot of prospective economic development proposals because the prospects do not have the potential for long-term commitment.
  • The Walsh development in West Fort Worth could impact 30,000 acres.

Session #4 Surge Northeast:

  • North Richland Hills accessed federal funds for its TEXRail stations only because the cities of Fort Worth and Grapevine joined forces with the proposal.
  • Public Private Partnerships have been essential in funding projects.
  • Managed lanes (toll roads) have allowed TXDOT to minimize its funding for major projects such as the DFW Connector, thus allowing TXDOT to move large sums to other projects.

The keynote conversation consisted of Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of The Perot Companies and Hillwood, interviewing Lorie K. Logan, President/CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Logan shared her insights on the national economy, which she projected as positive but contingent on potential global disruptions.

She also cited cybersecurity issues as potential challenges that could negatively impact the national and even global economy.

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Logan moved to the Dallas office in late 2022 from New York’s Federal Reserve Bank and praised the Texas culture as being more community-oriented. She added that Texas is definitely friendlier than New York.

The most touching moment occurred when a video celebrating Commissioner Fickes’ impact on the community surprised him as he was preparing to introduce the keynote speakers. Fickes also was presented with an award honoring his leadership during a 35-year in public service that includes 10 years as mayor of Southlake. The audience gave the commissioner three standing ovations during the event.

With Commissioner Fickes stepping down, The Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition will assume responsibility for the Tarrant Transportation Summit in 2025 under the direction of Victor Vandergriff, executive director of the coalition.