When Transtar opened in 1996 it was thought that it would be only in the traffic business. Cameras were put up on the region's roads and that's the center of information for daily traffic reports. A lot has changed. Houston Transtar program director Jack Whaley...
"originally we built the computer room twice as big as we thought we needed and now we're going to have to double it once again. Because technology, although it makes the equipment smaller, there's more and more things you can do. So we are doing tasks now that we never thought we would be doing originally. We thought we were going to be in the traffic business. Now we are in the communications business and the emergency management business."
As part of the expansion, the county's 9-1-1 system will move to Transtar. This does not affect the city's 9-1-1 system that is housed in the Houston emergency center.Whaley says the expansion will also help them operate better during natural disasters.
"one of the things we found during Rita was that we had lots of people over here and it was standing room only. So we decided to ask for federal funds to help onThat part of it. So we'll combine all those projects into one and the county public infrastructure department will be in charge of it."
Because of the evacuation issues Houston faces, the federal Government is chipping in $6 million for that part of the expansion. The county contributes about $25 million for the expansion. Transtar sits on state property. Whaley explains the building is maintained by the county and the city helps with the operation.
"the 9-1-1 part of the building will be to the north side or the back side of the existing building and then the expansions for some of the disaster preparedness stuff and the traffic signal expansion for personal will be on the west side of the building. And then the third expansion which is to more than double the size of our computer room will be on the east side of the building so we are expanding in all directions."
Whaley says about 70,000 square feet of space will be added, more than doubling the size of the current size of the building. The county hired the architects this week toDraw up a plan. Whaley estimates it'll take two to three years to complete the project. Capella tucker, HoustonPublic Radio News.