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Texas A&M Transportation Institute Grows Its Research Footprint in The RGV

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“I applaud TTI for adding Sergio and Pete to its Advisory Council,” says District 20 Texas State Sen. Juan Hinojosa. Courtesy Images for illustration purposes.
“I applaud TTI for adding Sergio and Pete to its Advisory Council,” says District 20 Texas State Sen. Juan Hinojosa. Courtesy Images for illustration purposes.

Texas Border Business

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The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) continues to partner with stakeholders in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) to provide innovative solutions to key transportation-related projects. From implementing radio-frequency identification (RFID) and Bluetooth technologies to measure traffic congestion at the border, to planning for emergencies such as train derailments, TTI addresses complex transportation challenges and opportunities with innovation, objectivity and unmatched technical expertise.

TTI’s research and presence in the transportation sector are supported by an Advisory Council comprised of high-level transportation and business professionals across the state of Texas and from every sector of the transportation world. Sergio Contreras, CEO of Atlas, Hall and Rodriguez, LLP, and Pete Sepulveda, Jr., executive director of the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority and an administrator with Cameron County, recently joined TTI’s Advisory Council representing the RGV and will be essential in providing advice to TTI on transportation issues and trends in the region. 

“I applaud TTI for adding Sergio and Pete to its Advisory Council,” says District 20 Texas State Sen. Juan Hinojosa. “Their leadership and knowledge of the border and South Texas will further strengthen the great work already being done by TTI. I appreciate the research and investments under way in the RGV and look forward to even more being done to further improve the safety and efficiency of our border transportation network to benefit our communities and the Texas economy.”

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One example of innovative work TTI is doing in the RGV and along the U.S.-Mexico border is using RFID readers to measure wait border times. TTI, along with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, developed and implemented the Border Wait Time Measurement System at seven of the most heavily traveled commercial border crossings in Texas — including the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and Veterans Bridge at Los Tomates — to gather information from RFID tags and Bluetooth devices. The system provides researchers with the time it takes a commercial vehicle to travel from point A on the Mexican side to point B on the Texas side. The system provides data that can be turned into tools to help ease traffic congestion and strengthen Texas’ supply chain.

“As the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, I have worked closely with TTI to address our state’s complex transportation challenges and have always found TTI’s technical expertise to be unmatched,” says District 40 Texas State Rep. Terry Canales. “The addition of Sergio and Pete to the board demonstrates the importance of our border communities in helping develop solutions to our state’s supply chain challenges. The Rio Grande Valley is an economic engine for the state, and TTI is at the forefront of helping us harness the full economic potential of our region.”

Hazardous materials travel daily by road, rail, pipeline, waterway and air throughout the Lone Star State. This includes the RGV, where regional and national railroad companies have operations in Edinburg, McAllen, Weslaco, Harlingen, Brownsville and nearby communities. Most rail hazmat cargo shipments arrive safely. But when things go wrong — like a hazmat incident or train derailment near a school — advanced planning and preparedness save lives. Texas Education Code Section 37.108 mandates that school districts with any property line within 1,000 yards of a rail track have a train derailment policy in their emergency plans. In 2021, TTI researchers developed the Hazardous Materials and Train Derailment Emergency Planning Guide for School Districts and Community Colleges, which provides recommendations for hazmat and derailment emergency planning practices, and supplements standards and protocols published by the Texas State School Safety Center.

TTI researchers have also worked with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and many Texas communities on hazardous materials transport studies, emergency plan reviews, and incident risk assessments for hazmat transportation by road, pipeline and rail. This coming year, TTI researchers will be working with TDEM, Local Emergency Planning Committees, and local emergency managers and responders in South Texas on workshops to improve hazardous materials response coordination and mutual aid in the event of a train derailment or major hazmat incident.

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Another way TTI supports safety initiatives in the RGV is through ongoing crash data analysis using TxDOT’s Crash Records Information System. TTI recently analyzed a decade of crashes related to wrong-way driving (WWD) on freeway corridors across the RGV for the TxDOT Pharr District. The study revealed WWD crashes on freeway main lanes tended to occur on weekends and in the late-night hours, while crashes on corridors in general — which include frontage roads — were evenly spread across days of the week and more likely to occur in the middle of the day. Several safety improvement countermeasures were suggested for TxDOT, including increased use of one-way signage for larger commercial land uses in the Harlingen metropolitan area and the application of a safety checklist to ensure freeway exit ramp signage (Do Not Enter and Wrong Way signs) and pavement markings are present and well maintained across the RGV. This safety improvement effort mirrors similar initiatives to reduce WWD supported by TxDOT and TTI in San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, Austin, El Paso and Dallas.

“Congratulations to Pete and Sergio for being appointed to TTI’s Advisory Council. Both individuals have the knowledge and understanding of the unique needs of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” says District 39 Texas State Rep. Armando Martinez. “Their ability to relentlessly search for solutions to transportation problems and find innovative ways to solve them will be a significant benefit for TTI. TTI, South Texas and the entire state of Texas are very fortunate to have Mr. Sergio Contreras and Mr. Pete Sepulveda on TTI’s Advisory Council.”“TTI is committed to continuing to grow our research program in the Valley, and we are pleased that Mr. Contreras and Mr. Sepulveda are on our advisory council to provide input on the greatest transportation challenges and opportunities in the region,” says Greg Winfree, TTI agency director. “Our team of transportation researchers is ready to help the region prosper for years to come, and that depends on safe and reliable methods of transportation.”


Recognized as one of the premier higher-education-affiliated transportation research agencies in the United States, TTI’s research and development program has resulted in significant breakthroughs across all facets of the transportation system for more than 70 years. TTI research is widely known as an excellent value with a proven impact of saving lives, time and resources. The Institute conducts over 700 research projects annually with over 200 sponsors at all levels of government and the private sector

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