Texas Department of Transportation:
An Inventory of Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer Correspondence at the Texas State Archives, 1966-2006, bulk 1997-2004
The Texas Department of Transportation, in cooperation with local and regional officials, is responsible for planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining the state's transportation system. This involves the planning, designing, and right-of-way acquisition of state highways and other modes of transportation, plus transportation research to save lives and money; highway and bridge construction, and airport improvements; the maintenance of roadways, bridges, airports, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and ferry systems; public transportation, vehicle titles and registration, vehicle dealer registration, motor carrier registration, traffic safety, traffic information, and auto theft prevention.
The Texas Highway Department was created in 1917 (House Bill 2, 35th Texas Legislature, Regular Session) to stimulate the building and improvement of roads throughout the state. The Federal Aid Road Act of July 11, 1916 (39 Stat. 355; 16 U.S.C. 503; 23 U.S.C. 15, 48), signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, initiated federal aid for highways with the requirement that each state receiving aid have a state highway department that controlled the building of roads. The Department was to administer federal funds to counties for state highway construction and maintenance and to provide for state motor vehicle registration, fees from which were to generate the state's required matching funds. The department began operation on June 4, 1917. After gathering information at public hearings over that summer the commission proposed an 8,865-mile state highway network. Further influence from the national level came with the Federal Highway Act of 1921, which required state highway departments to control the design, construction and maintenance of roads rather than Texas' practice of allowing counties to undertake the work themselves with oversight from department engineers.
In 1969, the Legislature created the Texas Mass Transportation Commission (House Bill 738, 61st Legislature, Regular Session) to develop public mass transportation in Texas. This agency was merged with the Highway Department in 1975, creating the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation (Senate Bill 761, 64th Legislature, Regular Session). An executive order of May 1976 transferred the Governor's Office of Traffic Safety to the Department. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was created in 1991 (House Bill 9, 72nd Legislature, 1st Called Session), merging the Texas State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, the Texas Department of Aviation (created as the Texas Aeronautics Commission in 1945, name changed to Texas Board of Aviation in 1989); and the Texas Motor Vehicle Commission (created in 1971). In 1997 the Texas Turnpike Authority merged with the Texas Department of Transportation (Senate Bill 370, 75th Legislature, Regular Session).
The Texas Department of Transportation's governing body is the Texas Transportation Commission, originally composed of three members, increased to five in 2003 (Senate Bill 409, 78th Legislature, Regular Session). Commissioners are representatives of the general public appointed by the governor with advice and consent of the senate for overlapping six-year terms. Since 2003, one of the members must represent rural Texas. The positions are part-time salaried positions, and the chair (appointed by the governor) was originally called the commissioner of transportation; since 2003, each member is referred to as a commissioner.
The agency is headed by an executive director, who is assisted by a chief financial officer; a deputy executive director; four assistant executive directors overseeing district operations, engineering operations, innovation project development, and support operations; a special assistant for strategic policy and performance management; and the general counsel. The Internal Compliance Program Office reports directly to the deputy executive director and the Audit Office reports directly to the Transportation Commission. Additional offices include the Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority Office, Office of Civil Rights, the International Relations Office, and Office of Research and Technology Implementation.
The agency has twenty-one divisions and twenty-five district offices. Divisions are Aviation, Bridge, Construction, Design, Environmental Affairs, Finance, General Services, Government and Public Affairs, Human Resources, Maintenance, Motor Carrier, Motor Vehicle, Occupational Safety, Public Transportation, Right of Way, Technology Services, Texas Turnpike Authority, Traffic Operations, Transportation Planning and Programming, Travel, and Vehicle Titles and Registration. Districts offices are located in Abilene, Amarillo, Atlanta, Austin, Beaumont, Brownwood, Bryan, Childress, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Laredo, Lubbock, Lufkin, Odessa, Paris, Pharr, San Angelo, San Antonio, Tyler, Waco, Wichita Falls, and Yoakum. A district engineer manages each TxDOT district office. Each district oversees the design, location, construction and maintenance of its area's transportation systems. The Austin District covers the following counties: Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, Lee, Llano, Mason, Travis, and Williamson.
(Sources include: Guide to Texas State Agencies, 11th edition (2001); General and Special Laws; An Informal History of the Texas Department of Transportation, Hilton Hagan, 2000; and agency's website, http://www.dot.state.tx.us/about_us/, accessed in January 2009.)
The correspondence of the Texas Department of Transportation District Engineers document the planning, design, building and maintenance of roads and other modes of transportation in the region served by each office. These records are the administrative correspondence files of the Austin District Engineer, dating 1966-2006, bulk 1997-2004. The district engineer serves as the director of the agency's district office in Austin, which covers the central Texas area (Travis and surrounding counties and portions of the Hill Country). The bulk of the files are from the current engineer, Robert Daigh, and his immediate predecessor, William Garbade. Other Austin District engineers represented in these records include Robert A. Brown and William G. Burnett. Types of materials are incoming and outgoing letters (and emails), internal memoranda, project proposals, planning documents, environmental reviews, internal newsletters, manuals, policy statements, minutes from internal meetings, and reports. There is a box of files titled "signature correspondence" - letters or memos from the engineer to other agency officials/offices or to outside parties, usually accompanied by the incoming letter or memo which initiated his response. The remaining files (bulk of this series) are correspondence with other Department of Transportation offices and officials, including the executive and deputy directors, assistant directors, and most of the divisions and offices in the agency. Correspondence with the executive officials (and some division directors) often consists of letters sent to that official and then forwarded to the district engineer for a reply or comment on the issue involved; also present are memos sent to the executive officials (or directors) from the district engineer regarding a query the engineer received or an issue he wished to discuss. There are also internal memoranda sent out from the executive offices or a division head to all district engineers. The files from the 1960s to the mid-1990s consist primarily of interagency memos and letters between the district engineer, executive offices, or divisions. The files from the mid-1990s to 2006, the bulk of the records, contain this same type of interagency memos and letters, as well as correspondence with outside parties, including legislators, congressmen, other state offices, local officials, contractors and companies working on projects, universities (such as the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas) and the general public. A small amount of routine correspondence is present in the late 1990s "signature correspondence" and a few topical files are present in group I.
Topics covered include the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of roads in the area covered by the Austin district, such as the construction of a toll road at US 183A, the State Highway 45 turnpike extension, expansion of FM 1626 and building State Highway 130; appeals on construction decisions (such as road expansions and closures, driveway allowances, turning lane changes); right of way issues; metropolitan mobility planning; regional implementation plans; toll roads and toll booth construction; the Trans-Texas Corridor; airport improvements; construction and maintenance of roads and bridges; research and technology issues; environmental reviews and issues; proposed projects; agency policy changes; proposed legislation and other legislative issues; bonds; federal funding for construction projects; change orders; access management for cities; transfer of maintenance and jurisdiction of roads to local governments; vehicle registration issues; vehicle safety; litigation or legal issues; local participation rules; and bidding schedules. Some general correspondence is present for the 1970s and 1980s, generally consisting of interagency memos and directives sent out to all district engineers, discussing issues such as budget and finance, training, equipment and supplies, contract management, fuel adjustments, changes in procedures, etc.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Because of the possibility that portions of these records fall under Public Information Act exceptions including, but not limited to, email addresses (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Section 552.137), an archivist must review these records before they can be accessed for research. The records may be requested for research under the provisions of the Public Information Act (V.T.C.A., Government Code, Chapter 552). The researcher may request an interview with an archivist or submit a request by mail, fax, or email including enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the archivist to accurately identify and locate the information requested. If our review reveals information that may be excepted by the Public Information Act, we are obligated to seek an open records decision from the Attorney General on whether the records can be released. The Public Information Act allows the Archives ten working days after receiving a request to make this determination. The Attorney General has 45 working days to render a decision. Alternately, the Archives can inform you of the nature of the potentially excepted information and if you agree, that information can be redacted or removed and you can access the remainder of the records. The accession affects files in the first group of records only. Files in the second group of records are too early for email correspondence.
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item and cite the series), Texas Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer correspondence. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 2007/202, 2009/087
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Texas Department of Transportation on July 26, 2007 and January 15, 2009.
Processed by Laura K. Saegert, January 2009
These records were appraised by State Archives staff on January 15, 2009. A copy of the printed report is available in the Archives reading room, an electronic copy is on the website of the agency - http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/appraisal/txdotaustinengineer.html.
Detailed Description of the Records