Austin's Transportation Dept. helps repair traffic signals in Harvey-ravaged Victoria

Over the weekend, 51 Austin Police officers on the department's special response team boarded a Cap Metro bus bound for Houston.
               
As his officers said goodbye to their families, interim Chief Brian Manley spoke highly of Houston Police Sgt. Steve Perez, killed in the flooding Harvey brought with it.
               
"We've all heard the stories that family members were telling him 'don't go' and he said 'I have work to do, I have work to do.'  The men and women on the bus feel the exact same way, they have work to do.  They have skills they can bring to Houston to help them to recover from this devastating storm," Manley said.

Police officers aren't the only City of Austin employees doing some travelling.

When Harvey hit Victoria Texas, high winds took a toll on the traffic signals.

"To my knowledge Casey, we did not have a working traffic signal intersection in Victoria after Hurricane Harvey rolled through," said O.C. Garza, Communications Director for the City of Victoria. 

Victoria called Austin for help.

"Everything from flat beds with materials to bucket trucks, we sent down 4 bucket trucks.  Sign crews and so forth," said Austin Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar.

Spillar was a part of the convoy last Thursday as 13 vehicles hit the road, heading for Victoria.

"It is unique.  This is only the second time in 10 years that the Transportation Department has had to respond to a major event," Spillar said. 

Spillar says when he and his crews got there, the signals looked like busted piñatas.

"Some intersections, the poles were snapped off.  Others, the heads were dangling and pretty well beat to shreds.  Others, we were able to re-use the equipment," Spillar said.

Spillar says they also put up emergency stop signs.  According to the department as of Wednesday morning, Austin crews together with Victoria employees were able to repair 73 out of the 79 damaged signalized intersections. 

Spillar told council earlier this week about the work they'd been doing.

"I think that this is amazing.  I hadn't considered that this would be one of the needs that our city would have to step up to fulfill, I think it's really fantastic.  Just as a citizen I'm proud that the city has the resources, that we as a city has the resources, that we can be this type of asset to the state," said District 6 City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan. 

The Transportation Department says their crews are headed back Wednesday.

"They did a great job.  Frankly we wouldn't be anywhere near where we are now had they not rolled into Victoria and gave us a lot of support," Garza said.

"You know I told the City Manager down in Victoria when she was thanking the City of Austin, I said 'no, no it's us that should thank you because it really is a privilege to be able to come and help people in need and it really brings the best out in our employees,'" Spillar said.

During yesterday's council meeting a "mutual aid agreement" was approved between Austin and Victoria. 
               
So FEMA will reimburse Victoria in part and then Victoria will reimburse the City of Austin.

Austin Resource Recovery says they are also heading to Houston early Thursday morning to help with recovery there.

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