During her third State of the City address on Thursday, a metallic-shoe-clad Mayor Betsy Price announced the appointment of Bryan Beck as the new city transportation czar.
Any use of the title “czar” is always a little discomfiting.
Poor word choice aside, the decision to devote a high-level position exclusively to managing transportation and mobility issues reinforces the city’s commitment to tackling what is perhaps its most pressing challenge for the foreseeable future.
Officially, Beck’s new title is regional transportation coordinator for the city — it was previously regional transportation coordinator for planning and development.
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Practically speaking, the almost indistinguishable change in title means that Beck’s focus will narrow significantly. It also means his responsibility will grow dramatically.
Instead of reporting to the planning and development department head, Beck will now answer directly to the city manager.
He will serve as the primary point of contact on large, high-level legacy projects, such as the I-35W expansion, TEX Rail and high-speed rail, among others, the impact of which will extend well beyond the city limits.
In his new capacity, Beck will also become a kind of emissary on transportation issues throughout the region, working closely with private, state and regional partners.
Acting as the city’s representative in such matters, Beck will search for and help implement innovative and cost-effective solutions to the region’s transportation infrastructure issues, which seem to compound daily.
And in a city that’s expanding its population (16,000 new residents last year) faster than it is building and repairing its roads and railways, such solutions are in high demand.
It’s a big job of unenviable weight and importance. But Beck’s experience in navigating the Chisholm Trail Parkway negotiation and numerous other transportation projects throughout his 18-year tenure with the city should ensure that he is well-equipped with the connections, skills and experience needed to tackle such a daunting new assignment.
We wish him luck.