Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday named The Bank of San Antonio Chairman J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., chairman of the five-member Texas Transportation Commission. He replaces Tryon D. Lewis, a former state representative, who will continue to serve as a commissioner.

The Texas Transportation Commission governs the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and is responsible for policymaking regarding the state’s highway system, developing a statewide transportation plan, assisting the development of public transportation, and adopting rules for TxDOT’s operation and its 12,500 employees.

Commission members serve overlapping six-year terms and are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate.

Currently the only representative from San Antonio on the commission, Bugg is also chairman and CEO of Argyle Investment Co.; chairman, president and CEO of Southwest Bancshares, Inc., Texas Hill Country Bancshares, Inc., and Capitol of Texas Bancshares, Inc.; and chairman of The Bank of Austin.

He began serving on the Texas Transportation Commission in February 2015. Then in September of that year, Gov. Abbott appointed Bugg to lead the commission in developing a statewide strategic plan to address traffic congestion in five major metropolitan areas, including San Antonio.

That effort resulted in the Texas Clear Lanes program of TxDOT. In San Antonio, one of two Texas Clear Lanes project will begin next summer to reduce congestion at U.S. Highway 281 and Loop 1604. It is a $304 million project estimated to be complete in 2020.

For Bugg, his role on the Texas Transportation Commission is about public service.

Well-known in San Antonio and beyond as chairman and trustee of The Tobin Endowment, Bugg served for nine years as co-founder and founding chairman of the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation, which owns and operates the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio.

“I was asked by former Mayor Phil Hardberger and [Bexar County Judge] Nelson Wolff to form the foundation that led to what is today the Tobin Center, and that was voluntary public service,” Bugg said. “So I was really drawn to more. I enjoy public service, and that gave me the experience of working with the City, County and private-sector interests.”

He said it was former Gov. Rick Perry who saw what he had accomplished with the Tobin in San Antonio, and named him to his first gubernatorial appointment on the board of trustees of Humanities Texas. Later, Perry appointed Bugg chairman of the Economic Development Corporation and senior advisor for economic development.

When it comes to serving the state’s transportation needs, Bugg said he often gets asked about rail service, especially a high-speed train between San Antonio and Austin.

“We do have rail in our wheelhouse, plus the 1,900 general aviation airports in the state and the ports of Houston, Corpus Christi and others, so we also have rail in terms of regulatory oversight,” Bugg said. “But our funding is 99% for surface transportation – highways and our road system – because currently 96% of Texans get behind the wheel of a car or truck for their transportation.”

He added that most federal funding for rail systems is spent in the northeast part of the country. So he has been advocating for a fair share in Texas, where the population is expected to double in the next 35 years, he said. “We need those federal transit dollars to help on rail projects. You can’t build a rail transit project without the funding and we do not have that source of funding.”

Last Dec., Bugg ended his historic tenure as chairman and president of the Bexar County Performing Arts Foundation. He was succeeded by Sam Dawson, CEO of Pape-Dawson Engineers.

The same month, Bugg announced that he and several other San Antonio executives were starting The Bank of Austin, the first such bank in the state since the recession.

This summer, Bugg led the founding of a new nonprofit, the Symphonic Music for San Antonio, in support of the San Antonio Symphony. SMSA took over on Sept. 1., the first day of its fiscal year.

Bugg currently serves on the boards of the Texas Cultural Trust, Texas Biomedical Research Institute and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.