San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

PHOTO: Texas Department of Transportation chief engineer Bill Hale and other agency brass present the Road Hand Award to Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley during the Dec. 16 commissioners court session. Pictured are, left to right, Hays County Judge Bert Cobb, Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe; Phil Tindall, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s deputy executive director; Ashby Johnson, the planning organization’s executive director; Hale; Ben Engelhardt, TxDOT’s Austin district construction director; Lawrence Olsen, the Texas Good Roads & Transportation Association’s executive vice president; Greg Malatek, TxDOT’s Austin district engineer; Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant; and Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones.

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley was ceremoniously presented this week with the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Road Hand Award,” a defacto Hall of Fame for elected officials and other allies of the state agency.

During a decade in office, Conley has overseen or assisted with hundreds of millions of dollars of transportation projects within the county. Since 2012, he has served as the influential chair of the six-county Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Commissioner Conley, along with other leaders in Hays County, faces the challenge of planning transportation in one of the fastest growing counties in the state,” said Greg Malatek, TxDOT’s Austin district engineer.

The award was created in 1973 and its recipients are inscribed on a plaque that hangs in the foyer of the Dewitt C. Greer Highway Building in Austin.

Moreover, the award “carries highly symbolic importance within the agency, especially by those who still connect the modern Department of Transportation to its precursor, the state highway department,” transportation reporter Michael Lindenberger wrote in the Dallas Morning News:

For more than 30 years, the agency each year has named a handful of folks who contribute to transportation from outside TxDOT to the club.

Back in the days before contractors and consultants and privatization, the state workers played a far more direct — and exclusive — role in designing, building and paving Texas’ 80,000 miles of highways.

In recent years, the award has been used in part to thank politicians who have sided with TxDOT in the highly politicized turf battles…

Since the award was first handed out 41 years ago by former state highway engineer Luther DeBerry, fewer than 250 people have been named “Road Hands,” an average of six per year. This year’s five recipients include Fort Worth city council member Jungus Jordan and Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Mullins.

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