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Regional leaders talk future projects in the North Texas boom at infrastructure summit

People sit at tables in a conference room at the third annual North Texas Infrastructure Summit on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, at the Hurst Conference Center.
Pablo Arauz Peña
Regional leaders talk roads, planes and trains at the third annual North Texas Infrastructure Summit on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023, at the Hurst Conference Center.

Keeping up with the region's population boom was top of mind at this week's North Texas Infrastructure Summit in Hurst.

The third annual event brought together leaders in the public and private sectors to talk about partnerships and innovation on roads, trains and planes as continued growth spurs new opportunities.

“Those opportunities bring challenges that the millions of people who call North Texas home stress are critical infrastructure systems,” said Patrick Brophey, chief operating officer of the North Texas Commission, which hosted the summit.

Transportation needs

During the opening keynote, former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price moderated a discussion on the need for a variety of transportation options in the region, including new toll roads and the much-anticipated bullet train from North Texas to Houston.

“We know there's a grant program that the Federal Railroad Administration is having to advance both Amtrak at grade type service and then high speed rail service,” said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Panelists also discussed ongoing developments of Panther Island in Fort Worth.

Morris told KERA that regional leaders are also anxious to make more improvements to Airport Freeway (SH 183) as DFW International Airport begins construction on the new Terminal F.

“There's parts of it that are pretty far along and other parts that aren't as far along as we would like,” Morris said. “Given that other parts of Airport Freeway will be improved, we wish to advance the section just south of DFW International Airport.”

Demands on energy

Other panel discussions included innovations in electric vehicles and air mobility, as well as energy reliability, especially as the demand for power has exceeded records throughout the summer.

North Texas state Senators Nathan Johnson and Kelly Hancock each shared their perspective on policy priorities that address growth while balancing the need for power grid reliability.

Hancock spoke about the changes at ERCOT in projecting demand.

“What they're doing now… they’re kind of over-projecting demand, so that they make sure that they have enough capacity to meet those demands in the system,” Hancock said. “One of the things legislation did is change the way we do that.”

Johnson stressed the need for grid reliability.

“You got to make sure that the grid is not just reliable today, but will be reliable in an emergency and will be reliable in the future,” Johnson said.

During the lunch keynote, Adriana Cruz with the governor’s Office of Economic Development highlighted the significant number of businesses moving their headquarters or manufacturing facilities to North Texas.

“The ability to effectively move people, goods, makes Texas a very attractive location and what we have been told by site selection consultants, if there is a manufacturing project, looking at the United States, Texas is going to be on the list because of our infrastructure,” Cruz said.

According to census data, the North Texas region saw more growth last year than any other metro area in the country. Patrick Brophey with the North Texas Commission says that growth is just going to continue.

“The desire to be in North Texas is going to become more alluring and the area is going to become more valuable because of that,” Brophey said. “That's why it takes leaders today to look decades in advance and make sure that we have just the basic necessities.”

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.