Transtar is a unique hybrid agency made up of traffic and emergency managers from the City of Houston, Harris County, Metro Transit, and the Texas Department of Transportation, working together and sharing resources, using Intelligent Transportation System technology to monitor traffic and control traffic flow. Director Jack Whaley says the traffic nightmare the Hurricane Rita evacuation caused last year revealed Transtar's limitations.
"We became very busy here, and we were using a lot of the surveillance that we use on a daily basis for congestion mitigation purposes during the evacuation, and it was maxxed out."
Whaley says Transtar will triple the size of its emergency operations center so it will be able to do that much more of what it already does, including large public emergencies like hurricane evacuations.
"We're going to double the size of the computer room that holds the technology that controls all these systems. Also we are going to expand to the west part of the building so that we can bring more people here."
They'll also add a wing with dormitory style rooms for occasions when people have to work around the clock and can't go home, which happened last year. The expansion will cost 21 million dollars, mostly federal but with some local funds, and Whaley says he hopes to have the new, improved and larger Transtar Emergency Ops Center in full operation in about three years. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.