The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is a governmental agency and its purpose is to "provide safe, effective, and efficient movement of people and goods" throughout the state. Though the public face of the agency is generally associated with maintenance of the state's immense highway system, the agency is also responsible for aviation in the state and overseeing public transportation systems.
Texas freeways have been heavily traveled since their 1948 beginnings with a several-mile stretch of Houston's Gulf Freeway, and are often under construction to meet the demands of continuing growth. As of 2005, there were 79,535 miles of public highway in Texas (up from 71,000 in 1984). Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) planners have sought ways to reduce rush hour congestion, primarily through High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for vans and carpools. The "Texas T", an innovation originally introduced in Houston, is a ramp design that allows vehicles in the HOV lane, which is usually the center lane, to exit directly to transit centers or to enter the freeway directly into the HOV lane without crossing multiple lanes of traffic. Timed freeway entrances, which regulate the addition of cars to the freeway, are also common. Houston and San Antonio have extensive networks of freeway cameras linked to transit control centers to monitor and study traffic.
One characteristic of Texas's freeways are its frontage roads (also known as service roads or feeder roads). Texas is the only state that widely constructs frontage/access roads along its highways even in the most remote areas. Frontage roads provide access to the freeway from businesses alongside, such as gas stations and retail stores, and vice versa. Alongside most freeways along with the frontage roads are two to four lanes in each direction parallel to the freeway permitting easy access to individual city streets. A TxDOT policy change now limits the frontage road construction for new highways, but the existing frontage will remain. New landscaping projects and a longstanding ban on new billboards are ways Houston has tried to control the potential side effects of convenience.
Another common characteristic found near Texas overpasses are the Texas U-turns which is a lane allowing cars traveling on one side of a one-way frontage road to U-turn into the opposite frontage road (typically crossing over or under a freeway or expressway) without being stopped by traffic lights or crossing the highway traffic at-grade.
The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, located nearly equidistant from downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth, is the largest airport in the state, the second largest in the United States, and fourth largest in the world. In terms of traffic, DFW is the busiest in the state, fourth busiest in the United States, and sixth busiest in the world. The airport serves 135 domestic destinations and 37 international, and is the largest and main hub for American Airlines (900 daily departures), the world's largest airline, and also the largest hub for American Eagle.
Texas's second-largest air facility is Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The airport is the ninth-busiest in the United States for total passengers, and nineteenth-busiest worldwide. Houston is the headquarters of Continental Airlines, and the airport is Continental Airlines' largest hub, with over 750 daily departures (over 250 operated by Continental Airlines). A long list of cities within Texas, as well as international destinations are served directly from this airport. With 30 destinations in Mexico, IAH offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other U.S. airports. IAH currently ranks second among U.S. airports with scheduled non-stop domestic and international service (221 destinations), trailing only Atlanta Hartsfield with 250 destinations.
Some of the other airports that are served by airlines include Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby Airport, San Antonio International Airport, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, El Paso International Airport, Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, and Valley International Airport in Harlingen.
Passenger rail service in Texas is at this moment extremely limited from both network viewpoint (with only three routes) and frequency viewpoint (only daily or tri-weekly service), and is certainly to be considered below par for a developed state.
Currently three Amtrak trains serve Texas:
- the daily Texas Eagle connecting Chicago, Illinois with San Antonio, with three times a week through cars to Los Angeles. Texas stations served by this train are Marshall, Longview, Mineola, Dallas, Fort Worth, Cleburne, McGregor, Temple, Taylor, Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio, where through cars are coupled to the Sunset Limited.
- the tri-weekly Sunset Limited, connecting New Orleans, Louisiana to Los Angeles, California. Texas stations served are Beaumont, Houston and then 190 miles non-stop to San Antonio, where the through cars of the Texas Eagle are coupled. Further west, following Texas localities are served: Del Rio, Sanderson, Alpine and El Paso.
- the daily Heartland Flyer, from Fort Worth (where it connects to the Texas Eagle) to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, serving Texas stations: Fort Worth and Gainesville.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is the Dallas area public transportation authority, providing buses, rail, and HOV lanes. DART began operating the first light rail system in the Southwest United States in 1996 and continues to expand its coverage. The DART light rail system remained the only one in Texas until METRORail opened in Houston in 2004.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) operates bus, lift bus, and light rail service in Harris County, which includes Houston. METRO also operates bus service to two cities in Fort Bend County. METRO began running light rail service (METRORail) in Houston on January 1 2004. Currently the track is rather short. It runs about 8 miles (13 km) from Downtown Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park.
VIA Metropolitan Transit (VIA for short) operates bus service in the San Antonio area. VIA is expected to add Bus Rapid Transit to the area by 2012.
Although located in the middle of the service areas of DART, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, and the Trinity Railway Express that connects the two, the city of Arlington remains the largest city in the United States that is not served by a public transportation system.
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