The topic of discussion at the recent Williamson County Growth Summit focused on traffic in the county and how best to address it, especially in the suburbs surrounding Austin. The panel at the summit included Mike Heiligenstein, the Executive Director of the Central Texas Mobility Authority, Leandre Johns representing Uber Technologies, Inc, ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin, and RideScout LLC’s founder Joseph Kopser. The discussion centered around how technology is changing transportation in today’s world.
Heiligenstein noted that while new technologies would drastically change infrastructure, what the greater Austin area needs is more road capacity and smarter roads to get people back and forth from the suburbs where most of the area’s growth is taking place. Mike Heiligenstein also believes that people are being overly optimistic about autonomous vehicles and in his view the adoption rate will be slower and longer than most people expect, hence his view that the focus should be on transportation capacity. He also believes that population growth will exceed that of mass transit adoption so more roads will be needed.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) was created in 2002 in order to improve the transportation infrastructure of Travis and Williamson Counties. The CTRMA is overseen by a Board of Directors and is an independent government agency. The agency’s goal is to reduce congestion in the two county area and to give citizens transportation choices. Mike Heiligenstein oversees a professional government staff of 20 people and uses specialized private contractors for individual projects.
Heiligenstein earned his Masters Degrees in Government and Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. Before taking over CTRMA in 2002 he had served as a public official in Williamson County for over 23 years including both as a Round Rock City Council member and as a Williamson County Commissioner. He is sought out as a public speaker at traffic conferences around the United States. In addition to his work with the CTRMA he is also the President of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association. Among the several boards that he sits on are the Advisory Board for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, The National Association of Counties Air and Water Quality Subcommittees, and Envision Central Texas. Mike Heiligenstein is known as an innovative thinker who is comprehensive when tackling transportation issues.