The nascent Brazos County Regional Mobility Authority had its inaugural meeting Thursday morning inside the county administration building as the five-person board works to address a variety of transportation issues and challenges.
The Texas Transportation Commission gave formal approval for the creation of a county RMA — the 10th such entity in Texas — on May 30. A regional mobility authority is an independent local government agency with authority to finance, acquire, design, construct, operate and extend transportation projects.
In December, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Tedi Ellison as the RMA’s chair. Following the meeting, Ellison said that five area entities provided $15,000 each in start-up funding for the county RMA: the cities of Bryan and College Station, Brazos County’s commissioners, the Texas A&M System, and the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation.
Brazos County Precinct 3 Commissioner Nancy Berry and College Station Place 5 Councilman John Nichols attended the meeting. RMA board members said during the meeting that the RMA enjoyed widespread support from the area’s elected officials and other leaders.
Ellison described the RMA as an “effort that’s being done by the whole community working together to make transportation better, easier and make things more accessible here.”
The RMA will collaborate with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Texas Department of Transportation and other local individuals and entities to develop and implement projects.
Beyond its initial funding, the RMA seeks to fund its work primarily by collecting a $10 vehicle registration fee in Brazos County. That would require legislative approval — and likely voter approval via referendum. An effort to implement House Bill 642 in the most recent legislative session passed the House but failed in the Texas Senate after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick expressed disapproval. The board and other local leaders intend to try again in the 2021 session.
Rounding out the RMA board are former Bryan Mayor Pro Tem Ann Horton; Dennis Christiansen, Texas A&M Transportation Institute director emeritus; and Veronica Morgan and Alan Munger, who both have extensive backgrounds in transportation and engineering work.
The board formally approved Lisa Lyon as its administrative assistant as part of Thursday’s formal agenda. The board also heard a presentation from Doug Bramwell of Jones/Carter Engineering, who has been part of the RMA process locally for more than two years. Bramwell said RMAs may employ eminent domain but have no taxing authority.
“It provides more local control and local decision-making. That’s one of the key ideas that makes this so attractive,” Bramwell said of the RMA.
The county was required to identify an initial project to pursue as part of the RMA petition process. The proposed initial project focuses on a 1.2-mile section of University Drive adjacent to the Texas A&M University campus from Wellborn Road to Texas Avenue. The project would include about a half-mile depressed section from Wellborn Road to just east of College Avenue that would be capped with a surface built for bicycles and pedestrians.