Texas cities and counties may now access free expertise in transportation training, safety instruction, heavy equipment courses and other services through a the Texas Local Technical Assistance Program operated by The University of Texas at Arlington.
UTA's Division of Enterprise Development has won a highly competitive, two-year $1.8 million grant to operate the program, which officials have named TxLTAP. The Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration jointly fund the program, which provides technical assistance and workforce training that many smaller or rural Texas counties and cities do not have.
A new website, http://www.txltap.org, serves as the portal to help connect those cities and counties with expert help.
Bryan Sims, UTA executive director for the Division of Enterprise Development, said participating cities and counties will benefit from the University's extensive network of private sector instructors who teach certification classes in the many transportation areas.
"TxLTAP will be a statewide help desk for transportation and road issues," said Sims. "Many of the state's fatal crashes happen in rural Texas because of inadequate roads and rural Texas sometimes doesn't have the expertise the state's urban areas have. This program helps those cities and counties remedy those problems."
The 313,000 miles of Texas' roadway systems are managed by many organizations with varying responsibilities, resources, experience and knowledge base. The Texas Local Technical Assistance Program offers local roadway agencies with quality, research-based training at no cost.
Course offerings cover topics such as best practices of roadway maintenance, heavy equipment operations and employee development skills. When local governments have a specific concern, program staff will match experts with the need to map out an onsite solution, Sims said.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff, an Arlington native, said basing the Local Assistance Program in the growing Dallas-Fort Worth region with its diverse transportation needs makes sense.
"This alliance links our state's need for transportation training and education across Texas with a University well-known for its expertise in transportation planning and engineering, and that makes sense," Vandergriff said. "I know that UTA will serve as an excellent connection source for those cities and counties that use this important resource."
It's the first year that UTA has applied for the grant and the first year the grant has been competitively bid.
Under Federal Highway Administration direction, each state has a Local Assistance Program organized to address four focus areas: safety, workforce development, infrastructure management and organizational excellence.
The TxLTAP began in 1982 as the Rural Technical Assistance Program with the mission of fostering a safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation system by improving skills and knowledge of local transportation providers through training, technical assistance and technology transfer.
Richard Cortese, a Bell County commissioner in Central Texas, said the program has been a valuable tool for many of that area's counties.
"The result of the program is better roads for our citizens and the best value for the use of tax dollars that we are entrusted with," Cortese said.
About The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UTA as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times' 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at http://www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.