By Ursula A. Williams
The Department of Transportation Studies hosted its second annual Spring Conference on March 7, 2013. The conference, “Effectively Planning for Freight Traffic in the Houston Region as a Result of the Panama Canal Expansion” was designed to bring together industry officials and TSU Department of Transportation faculty and students to engage in dialogue about the potential impacts of the Panama Canal expansion on the Texas Gulf Coast region.
Dr. Katherine Turnbull, Executive Associate Director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute served as the Breakfast Keynote Speaker and delivered the findings of her recently authored report, “Preparing Texas Land and Sea for the Panama Canal Expansion.” Dr. Turnbull was introduced by Dr. Carol Lewis, Director of the Center for Transportation Training and Research. Following the Breakfast sessions, two panel discussions were held. The first panel discussed “The Expansion of the Panama Canal and the Need for More Maritime Professionals.” Panelists included representatives from the Port of Houston Authority, Gulf Winds International, The Greater Houston Port Bureau, and The Law Office of Reginald E. McKamie. The second panel “Infrastructure Planning to Accommodate Increased Freight Traffic” included representatives from the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Texas Department of Transportation, Traffic Engineers, Inc. and the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration. Both panels were moderated by Department of Transportation Studies Adjunct Professor Paul Simmons, P.E.
The conference included a luncheon with Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria serving as the keynote speaker. Longoria, appointed as Chairman of the Port Commission on January 8, 2013, is the first woman and first Hispanic to hold the position. Chairman Longoria spoke to the crowd of over 100 people about the impacts of the Panama Canal on the Port of Houston. TSU President Dr. John Rudley, Port of Houston Authority (PHA) Executive Director Col. Leonard Waterworth, PHA Deputy Executive Director Phyllis Saathoff, PHA Vice President of Corporate Outreach and TSU Maritime Industry Advisory Board Chair Gilda Ramirez, PHA Director of Corporate Affairs and TSU Alumnus Lisa Ashley, Dr. Lei Yu, Dean of the College of Science and Technology (COST), and Dr. Oscar Criner, Associate Dean of COST were a few of the special guests in the audience. Dr. Criner also served as Master of Ceremonies for the luncheon.
The conference concluded with Dr. Yi Qi, Chair of the Department of Transportation Studies presenting the Department of Transportation Studies’ Partner of the Year to Dan Lynch of Traffic Engineers, Inc. The award was presented to Traffic Engineers, Inc. to thank them for their outstanding support and contributions to the Department of Transportation Studies.