Recently Mike Heiligenstein, who works for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), attended the Texas Department of Transportation forum. At the event, which was held in San Antonio, the executive director talked about the state’s increasing infrastructure needs. The San Antonio Business Journal fielded a number of questions to the Mobility Authority head. Among the questions, Heiligenstein was requested to discuss the future of Texas’ toll roads, including Highway 130. He was also asked if pay-for-use arrangements could enhance road conditions in the Eagle Ford Shale.
Mike contended that the credit rating of the concession company for State Highway 130 (SH 130) that picks up close to San Antonio was downgraded twice by Moody’s due to the low traffic numbers. Heiligenstein was asked why drivers in Texas were not using SH 130. He noted that SH 130 was an interesting case study. Mike said that Interstate 35 is unsolvable given its subsequent 20 years of increased demand. In several places like the Colorado River in Austin, additional lanes cannot be developed in the existing footprint. From San Antonio to Austin, the traffic is manageable, as it is 85 percent regional. According to Heiligenstein, the solution is not just to relocate cars and trucks to SH 130, but to identify different ways that can enhance road capacity, augment the multi-modal objectives, and change travel behavior. While talking about I-35, Heiligenstein asserted that they had met the enemy, which was everybody! SH 130 is a long term endeavor. They are already witnessing a surge in both car and truck demand in the Austin area.
While responding to a question regarding the poor performance of several toll roads due to high gas prices and whether a case can still be made on toll roads, he suggested that toll roads are not the only solution. According to him, they should be provided with all the necessary tools to be in a position to enhance the performance of the toll roads. Heiligenstein remarked that in Austin, they managed to leverage public dollars into a plan that presently exceeds $1 billion in construction. Their last extension of 183A was supported by user revenue without any tax dollars.
About Mike Heiligenstein
Mike Heiligenstein is the current executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Mike has been rendering his services for the multi-modal transportation agency since 2003. Through his visionary leadership, he has been able to enhance the growth of the corporation into a nationally respected leader in matters of toll road operations. The Mobility Authority developed its initial toll road 183A under Heiligenstein’s leadership. In addition, he optimized its efficiency and executed modern technologies like all electronic tolling.
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