County judges from Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties were the featured guests at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership’s 11th Annual State of the Counties Address on Wednesday.
BayTran President Coletta Castleschouldt welcomed the large crowd to the Downtown Aquarium in Houston.
Reverend Tony McCollum of the Seabrook United Methodist Church gave the invocation; BayTran Vice President Bob Robinson led the Pledge of Allegiance.
BayTran Chair Tobin Maples introduced the elected officials at the event and talked briefly about the challenges facing the region.
“We’ve got a lot of issues going on and a lot of development that is going to occur and traffic that is going to occur with the opening of the Panama Canal and what the impacts are going to be to our ports here,” Maples said. “So we need to start preparing and ensuring that infrastructure gets put on the ground. And again, BayTran stands ready as a partnership to help implement that infrastructure and the leadership and management and operational issues that are going to be vitally important.”
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was introduced by Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.
“We have got to cooperate to solve the problems that we all face and nowhere is that more clear than in transportation,” Emmett said. “I have given speech after speech after speech about this area being the gateway of North America.”
Emmett said the region must position itself to take advantage of the global market that will expand in the future with improvements to highways, toll roads, commuter rail and high speed rail to other regions, as well as improvements to the ports in the region.
Brazoria County Judge Joe King was introduced by Commissioner Matt Sebesta.
“The traffic problems that exist here in the region are definitely going to take a great deal of effort and a whole lot of cooperation,” King said in agreement with Emmett.
Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough was introduced by Commissioner Ken Clark.
“You know I’m not certain of too much, but I am certain that tomorrow will come,” Yarbrough said. “We are going to have a tomorrow and a future in this region. Now how that looks and how that works, we have a whole lot of input on.”
Yarbrough agreed that cooperation between the counties is critical to the success of the region and complemented BayTran on its first 20 years.
“BayTran, congratulations on the part you do to help us get on those right avenues where we can enjoy success for years to come, and people 30 to 40 years from now can look back and say ‘Job well done, they gave us good options and they put us on a good platform’,” Yarbrough said.
Bob Robinson delivered a Regional Transportation Tribute; Ned Holmes of the Texas Transportation Commission presented the 2010 Charles A. JacbsonTransportation Enhancement Award to Judge Emmett; and Maples gave brief closing remarks.
“In the early 90s, 20 years ago, Charles A. Jacobson, Chuck, founded the Bay Area Transportation Partnership,” Robinson said, honoring the namesake of the award. “He is the father of BayTran.”
“I want to congratulate BayTran for recognizing how important it is to bring multiple counties in your region together, because quite frankly, we are not going to solve all of the problems that we all live with on a daily basis without working together,” Commissioner Holmes said in his presentation of the award to Emmett. “
“You know, we heard some common themes today,” Maples said. “The uncertainties about funding transportation and our regional needs, and the need for realignment at all levels of government that will help shape the future and create a new reality for all of us.”