May 2, 2016 - TRA Newswire

With the departure of Rail Division Director Erik Steavens, the Texas Department of Transportation has named Dan Harmon as the Interim Director of the unit. Harmon serves as director of Maritime and now wears a second hat as interim director of Rail.

Harmon assumes the dual-position amid several major rail projects now in work. Those include the Texas Central private high speed rail project between Dallas and Houston that TxDOT oversees, the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study due to be released with public meetings later this year and freight projects that include a new rail bridge over the Neches River in Beaumont, an east-west choke point on the busy Sunset route .

According to the TxDOT website, As Maritime Director Harmon is responsible for coordinating with Texas ports, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, marine-intermodal related projects and representing TxDOT's interests with maritime stakeholders.  Prior to joining TxDOT in August 2013, he was the director of Facilities and Infrastructure for the Texas Department of Public Safety, responsible for all Department of Public Safety facilities statewide.  A U.S. Navy veteran, Harmon served on active duty for over 22 years as a maritime patrol and reconnaissance pilot flying the P-3 Orion.

Harmon earned a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas and a master's degree in business administration from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, graduating with honors.  He is a graduate of the U.S. Navy Aviation Safety School and holds certifications in financial management, test and evaluation, and program management from the Department of Defense.

Steavens is only the second Director to lead the Rail Division and was appointed in September 2013.  There was no formal announcement made by TxDOT but in a Twitter post Steavens said “one has to constantly assess where you are and where you are going. Family matters change and should dictate one’s direction #family first”.

He replaced Bill Glavin, who ramped up the fledgling Rail Division in November 2009 and began planning for numerous freight and passenger rail projects.  After Glavin left TxDOT executives, who are no longer with the department, re-assigned many of the Rail Division employees into other areas, which one industry source described as a very unproductive move.

The Texas legislature has not been kind to funding for the Rail Division and in the past session did not even consider a freight rail development plan that would have helped move goods faster for shippers in Texas and promoted grade crossing safety.  TxDOT was almost shut out of high speed rail planning at the end of the legislative session with a rider attached by Georgetown Senator Charles Schwetner that would have prevented the division from communicating with a private rail developer, Texas Central Partners. A state budget committee voted 6-4 to remove the rider after a groundswell of support for the private Dallas to Houston high speed rail project.