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MoPac Expressway Buys Trees for the Neighbors

By: 
Bill Cramer

In the age of highway megaprojects, tolling agencies run the risk that customers will react to the noise and inconvenience during construction of a billion-dollar piece of infrastructure.

So it’s great to see the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) coming up with ways to acknowledge the hassle, keep lines of communication open, and show genuine appreciation for customers and neighbors who put up with some short-term pain for the long-term gain of driving a safer, more reliable road.

CTRMA Director of Community Relations Steve Pustelnyk has made a commitment to providing outstanding customer service and satisfaction, establishing a profile as MoPac Man and even dressing up as a superhero to build community connections for the MoPac Improvement Project.

Now, the agency has gone a step farther, buying trees for 185 neighboring households as a gesture of thanks for putting up with life in a construction zone.

The five-gallon trees were distributed through TreeFolks, an Austin-area non-profit that grows Central Texas urban forests through tree planting, education, and community partnerships.

“The Mobility Authority provided the trees as part of a larger outreach effort aimed at thanking residents for their patience during construction,” CTRMA said in a release. “The tree giveaway followed the distribution of more than 600 Care Bags with gifts including wildflower seeds, a MoPac flashlight, earplugs, and a voucher for the free tree.”

Residents who returned their tree vouchers got to choose from four species: Texas Rosebud, Mexican Plum, Burr Oak, and the most popular, Texas Red Oak. “The Care Bags and tree giveaway are examples of the ways we’re reaching out to residents to express our appreciation for their patience and understanding during construction,” said CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.

CTRMA’s Texas Arbor Day initiative was a pitch-perfect way of building trust and keeping faith with the community on which any successful toll road depends. And it was consistent with the customer service theme that Heiligenstein has emphasized throughout his term as IBTTA’s 2014 President.

Whether customers drive passenger vehicles or trucks over short or long distances, they all have a common interest in safe, seamless mobility, Heiligenstein told IBTTA’s 2014 Summit on All-Electronic Tolling, Managed Lanes & Interoperability in July. “They’re all our customers,” he said, and “there’s nothing more important than understanding their needs and making sure they understand why we do the things we do.”