Collaboration and Innovation Keep Dallas Running
The City of Dallas’ infrastructure initiatives and projects are collaborative, innovative, and strategic
By Dr. Robert M. Perez
As municipalities across the United States begin turning the corner of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be apparent, through the consideration of many large federal infrastructure bills, that a focus on infrastructure investment will be a catalyst in our country’s pandemic recovery. Understanding the importance of infrastructure to our country, the city of Dallas, through the support of our Mayor, City Council and City Management, challenges itself to be collaborative, innovative and strategic in the planning, coordination and execution of our City’s infrastructure initiatives and projects to ensure the continued prosperity of Dallas.
Whether addressing issues of quality of life, public safety or economic development, City of Dallas departments are constantly challenged to break departmental silos to find solutions. Being cognizant of infrastructure’s ability to positively transform a community, such as using streetlights to deter crime, partnering with developers to fund the paving of entire street blocks, or using speed humps to reduce street racing, the City of Dallas forms cross-departmental teams to develop infrastructure solutions to address the needs and concerns of the public.
Where emphasis is placed on departmental collaboration, equally important is the collaboration with the City of Dallas’ external partners. Given the significance of public and private infrastructure partners, high importance is placed on community involvement and maximizing synergies to ensure resident and business input throughout the planning and execution of infrastructure projects as well as to ensure that those infrastructure projects are coordinated and optimally phased to prevent an occurrence such as a street from being paved only to have it excavated two months later to put in a new utility.
While maintaining project collaboration, City of Dallas teams are also challenged to be innovative in infrastructure initiatives and our City leadership encourages teams to ask, “Why do we
do it that way?” As the COVID-19 surge forced many of us to quarantine at home, we really saw the effects of the digital divide and asking, “Why do we do it that way?” led a cross-departmental team to innovative pilot projects to provide Wi-Fi to residents by: 1) Installing telecommunications fiber from City facilities to wireless access points on streetlights and 2) Partnering with a third-party vendor to install radio equipment on City facilities and in neighborhoods.
Aside from working on digital divide efforts which will increase the City’s resiliency and serve as a gateway to other smart city technologies, challenging the status quo and incorporating innovation in its infrastructure has led to numerous initiatives such as the City of Dallas in-sourcing a portion of its street preservation program, which will save $600,000 annually, working with a local university to test alternative street paving materials that could potentially result in sustained cost savings and testing smart water meter options that could streamline billing methods.
Not only are infrastructure initiatives innovative in the City of Dallas, but they are also strategic. To serve multiple purposes, the City of Dallas’ infrastructure programs are data-driven and developed based upon strategic priorities. Most recently, our departmental leaders began spatially analyzing many variables, such as crime rates, market value analysis, street corridors with high injury rates and areas with high poverty rates, to develop priority areas to install streetlights; adding the variable of residents with the least amount of access to the internet to those priority areas, showed City leaders where to install streetlights and Wi-Fi equipment to provide internet to those residents in the most impactful areas of the city.
“Utilizing data-driven decisions allows the City of Dallas to objectively prioritize and strategically plan the investment of its resources and allows the City to be more forward thinking when forecasting its infrastructure needs.
Utilizing data-driven decisions allows the City of Dallas to objectively prioritize and strategically plan the investment of its resources and allows the City to be more forward thinking when forecasting its infrastructure needs. Being more strategic with our infrastructure investments has also resulted in multi-year infrastructure planning and the ability to be transparent in our upcoming infrastructure projects.
Lastly, while the City of Dallas leaders challenge our teams to make infrastructure initiatives collaborative, innovative and strategic, what keeps Dallas running, and will continue to keep it running, is the dedication, work ethic and brilliance found in the individuals who plan, design, construct and maintain the city on the day-to-day basis.
Dr. Robert M. Perez is the Director of Public Works for the City of Dallas. Robert has gained over 20 years of public sector experience while working for the City of San Antonio and the City of Dallas.