U. S. Transportation Bill Conference Committee Begins.

This week, select members of the House and Senate began negotiations on resolving the differences between the two chambers' long-term highway and transit bills. Funding will run out on Friday, November 20th and it is possible that another short-term extension may be required in order to hammer out a mutually acceptable bill and funding package.   BayTran will be sending a letter to the conferees encouraging them to resolve the differences between the Senate's DRIVE Act and the House STRRA Act and to approve a multiyear bill that provides increased funding levels for our highway and transit programs. We encourage you to also contact your Congressman and Senator and request their approval of a long-term transportation bill.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority has announced that the Ship Channel Bridge is going EZ TAG only.

In January 2016, the Ship Channel Bridge will transition to EZ TAG-only. The Ship Channel Bridge serves more drivers than ever before. In fact, between 2011 and 2014, transactions at the toll plaza increased by over 25 percent. Currently, EZ TAG traffic at the toll plazas exceeds capacity during peak periods and the volume of vehicles is projected to increase by 15% in the next two years. The transition to EZ TAG-only lanes will allow more vehicles to flow through the plaza at a time, and ease traffic congestion resulting from this continued growth.

The Port of Houston Authority recently released the "2014 Economic Impact of Marine Cargo Activity at the Port of Houston Authority". The bottom line is the Port generates 16.1% of the states' Gross Domestic Product.

Martin Associates was retained by the Port of Houston Authority of Harris County to measure the local and regional economic impacts generated by cargo and vessel activity at the Port of Houston Authority's marine terminals, as well as the impacts generated at the private marine terminals along the Houston Ship Channel. A summary of report findings include:

  • 1,174,567 jobs are generated by Port activity
  • $5.0 billion of state and local taxes are generated by Port activities
  • Between 2011 and 2014, approximately 147,747 direct and related new jobs were created as a result of cargo activity at the Port
  • Between 2011 and 2014, there was $82.3 billion increase of total economic value to the state

To see the full 2014 Economic Impacts report or the Executive Summary, visit


NASA Joins with Houston Airport System to partner on the Ellington Spaceport project.

Last week NASA signed a "Space Act Agreement" with the Houston Airport System to formalize the partnership between the two agencies.  NASA will provide Ellington Spaceport with help and expertise, initially sponsoring a class on system safety fundamentals for those working on the spaceport. This will bring greater efficiency and safety to the spaceport and will allow the Johnson Space Center to remain relevant not only in space, but also with private industry and the community.

In other space news, on Monday, November 2nd, NASA and partner agencies celebrated 15 years since the first crew arrived at the fledging International Space Station.

For the past 15 years, there has been uninterrupted human presence on the space station. The six astronauts and cosmonauts now living on the station said that the world could learn a lot from the 15-nation partnership that built the laboratory complex orbiting 250 miles up and has kept it continuously occupied all these years. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden stated that for more than a decade and a half, the International Space Station has taught us about what is possible when tens of thousands of people across 15 countries collaborate to advance shared goals. Congratulations to the International Space Station.

Self-driving cars take a liking to Texas.

Google has brought its self-driving car for a test spin in Austin. Many in Austin have embraced this new technology, while state transportation and policymakers are still studying the operation and safety of the vehicles. Four retrofitted Lexus cars and four bubble-shaped cars that Google commissioned have been driving around Austin for the past four months, the most extensive testing outside Silicon Valley. While testing, an employee has sat in the driver's seat.  Some suggest that the self-driving car is legal under Texas law, but for now the technology is still in test mode and being closely monitored.



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