Records Appraisal Report:
Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer
Contents of this report
Agency Contact | Record Series Review
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Austin District Engineer administrative correspondence
January 15, 2009, Laura K. Saegert, Appraisal Archivist
This agency contact information was current at the time of the report but may have changed in the interim. Please call (512-463-5455) for current contact information of the agency's records manager or records liaison for these records.
Obsolete record series? No
Ongoing record series? Yes
Annual accumulation: about one cubic ft.
Agency holdings: The district office holds files from 2005 forward.
These records are the administrative correspondence files of the Texas Department of Transportation's Austin District Engineer, dating 1997-2004. The district engineer serves as the director of the agency's district office in Austin. Files are from the current and previous engineers, Robert Daigh (2003-current) and William Garbade (1997-2002). 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 consisted 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 to all district engineers, some memos sent from various divisions to all district engineers. Outside correspondents include legislators, congressman, 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 early "signature correspondence."
Topics covered include the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of roads in the area covered by the Austin district (central Texas and the Hill Country), 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. Files comprise eight cubic ft. We have an older, smaller accession of Austin district engineer correspondence that was not reviewed at this time.
The administrative correspondence of the Austin District Engineer documents the planning, design, building and maintenance of roads and other modes of transportation in the central Texas area.
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 Legislature, Regular Session) to stimulate 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 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 Texas 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 (previously available on the TXDOT Website, the link has since been removed) and agency's website, http://www.dot.state.tx.us/about_us/, accessed in January 2009.)
The signature correspondence is filed first, the remaining files are arranged by office. Within the folders the materials are further arranged in reverse chronological order.
A few emails are present that contain email addresses of individuals, which are restricted.
Use constraints: None
Indexes or finding aids required for/or an aid to access? None
Problems: None known.
Known related records in other agencies: None known
Destruction requests on file in the Archives and Information Services Division of the Library and Archives Commission were checked for administrative correspondence of the district engineer's office and none were found for this series or for equivalent or related series.
Publications based on records: None
Internet pages based on records: None known
Series data from agency schedule:
Title: Administrative correspondence (the files from executive offices, division
and office directors, and district engineers are to be reviewed for archival value)
Series item number: 1.1.007
Agency item number: ADM01
Archival code: R
Texas Department of Transportation, Austin District Engineer correspondence and reports, 1974-1998, 2 cubic ft. These materials are unprocessed, the call numbers are 2007/202-1 and 2. The accession contains one box of correspondence and one box of reports.
Texas Documents Collection holdings: None
Gaps: No materials present prior to 1997.
The files of the District Engineer are a microcosm of the agency as a whole. There is correspondence documenting the interactions between the executive officials of the agency (executive and deputy directors, assistant directors) and the district engineer, who serves as the director of the district office. The records reveal how the various divisions and offices of the agency interact with the district engineer, giving a good overview of district operations. In addition to documenting the planning, design, building and maintenance of roads and other modes of transportation in the central Texas area, the correspondence provides information about policy changes occurring in the agency, important legislative issues, contacts with legislators and congressmen on projects in the area, planning issues, and other topics. Because the Department of Transportation is such a large agency with scattered operations all over the state, more than just the executive office correspondence needs to be documented in the Archives. The possible future accession of the correspondence from the executive offices and most of the division/office directors would likely make the correspondence from Austin (and other) district engineer(s) found in these records superfluous. The Archives cannot predict what the agency will eventually transfer to the Archives. Another issue to consider is if the Archives accepted the correspondence files of this district, should the correspondence files of the other district engineers be transferred to the Archives. It is unknown if the files in the other district offices are this substantial. The Austin office, with its close proximity to the headquarters area, may have a more complete recordkeeping operation than some of the other district offices.
As the appraisal archivist conducting this review, I recommend the Archives transfer these files to its holdings, but not make an appraisal decision on all district engineer correspondence at this time. Other offices could be different -- more or less substantial than these files. When a full agency appraisal is done for TxDOT, the Archives may decide to document some aspect of the regional operations, but not all of the regions, perhaps keeping these files and those of a few other district offices. There is enough unique value in these records to warrant keeping them in the Archives in lieu of correspondence from other areas. The files do show how the district offices operated, which would not be as easily apparent in the files of the executive offices and divisions. However, if the administrative correspondence from the executive offices and division directors is eventually transferred to the Archives, and it covers these years, the Austin District Engineer files can be reappraised.
After a review of this report by the State Archivist and assistant director for Archives, it was decided to transfer these records to the State Archives.