The City of Irving presented the Irving Transportation Investment Summit at the Irving Convention Center on Aug. 16 – 17. During the day and a half conference, local, regional, state and national leaders had an opportunity to discuss the future of area transportation and water as well as the infrastructure needed to support them.
“The transportation Summit gives us the opportunity for our staff and employees to interact with our elected officials and the representatives of the different transportation agencies at both the state and federal level,” said Rick Stopfer, Irving’s representative on the DART Board. “It also gives the opportunity for those representatives to see what’s actually going on in Irving with the development throughout the whole city. You have to continue to look at where the dollars are going to come from to finish a project.
“Sometimes you lose sight of projects we’ve already done; for example Mr. Carpenter started Las Colinas 40 years ago and it has probably been the only in the last five years, I may be off on my time, that we have had the actual Las Colinas Boulevard to come in at that intersection, because we had to have the over pass built on Northwest Highway. Details like that get lost in the shuffle. That was a $12 million operation that came from TxDOT. There are so many of those little $10 million and $12 million projects that happened throughout the city. This event gives you the opportunity to see those and showcase the city.
“The Transportation Summit gives us a chance to show what we have, it gives us a chance to show the projects that have started and need to be completed, and it gives the opportunity for the staff to be involved with other staffs at the federal and state level. It provides an opportunity for all of us to get to know and meet our colleagues from around the Metroplex and around the state. It’s a good networking opportunity as well,” he said.
Irving built one of the first transportation summits in the country, and in its first 19 years of existence, until 2013, it grew into one of the largest. Transportation officials and managers flocked to Irving each year not only from around the country but internationally as well.
More recently, however, Irving has reduced its transportation summit in both size and scope.
“The real issue is to make sure you have the right people,” Stopfer said. “You have people here from TxDOT. Summits are all good whether they are short or they are long, because they represent the city and the city will get to showcase.
“Victor Mendez [the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation] is here from the federal level, as well as elected officials. I can’t say that one is better than the other. Anytime you can bring people together, that is important.
“I think with a longer summit, you have more issues you can look at. Here you have a finite time that you can talk about water, rail, and highways,” he said. “In the past, other things were talked about at the summits. We talked about representation from the Suez Canal, and we talked about major waterways outside of the state.
“The one and two day summit works well for the local issues.
“It’s always important to look at the positives we have in our city and to showcase the infrastructure we have. Infrastructure is our number one priority for the summit, and it is one of our highest priorities as a city. Hopefully the residents realize how important it is to bring people together to talk about infrastructure,” he said.
Melissa Baker, a public works administration manager for Irving, felt the Transportation Summit went very well.
“We planned the summit so that it was at the proper time of the month, so that both the state and federal delegations could be there,” Baker said. “So the dates strategically coincided with their calendars. For a day and a half we designed the comprehensive agenda so that it was efficient, and we could get them in and get them out, and we could talk about the necessary topics that we needed to talk about. I think it was a successful event this year.
“Not just Irving, but the region, and North Texas area gains a lot from the summit as it relates to best practices being able to talk about not only transportation but water and infrastructure issues, being able to have time with those state legislators and the federal congressional delegation in order to share with them our need as it relates to transportation and water public policy.
“The summit puts it in the forefront of their minds as they are going back to Austin in January, and D.C. as it relates to transportation funding specifically water funding. We have several projects that need funding, and the area has projects that need funding as a region.
“Irving, as well as North Texas, is a leader in transportation, water infrastructure and economic development policy. We want to be on the forefront of that, and I think we are,” she said.