Most afternoons I could find my grandfather sitting on an old brick patio beneath a 100-year-old pecan tree drinking black coffee from a tiny cup. He barely spoke a word. I thought he was mulling over the memories of his 80-plus years.

He was the kind of man who would be the last to jump ship. His tall stature had become stooped with time and I could occasionally get him to talk about days gone by.

He told me about the Great Depression, when he was forced to live on the banks of the Angelina River until he could find housing for him, my grandmother and four young children. He crafted illegal fishing nets and went to jail a couple of times for making moonshine. He was hired as a millwright and would retire from the same company after 40 years. He saved a dime of every dollar and built his own home without help from the bank.

One of my favorite stories was how in the 1950s he searched for lost gold near the Attoyac River until a blast of dynamite at the dig site took the life of a friend. In his later years, he never went anywhere without a fishing pole and he grew the most beautiful garden in the county.

I later realized that it wasn’t the past he was thinking about as he sat beneath that old pecan tree. He was planning for the future. I have his journal where he recorded every detail of his daily life and his future plans, right down to paying for his and my grandmother’s funerals years before they died. She would live five years longer than him.

It’s the planning that keeps us all a step ahead of progress and ensures future success. That’s why TxDOT has the Unified Transportation Program. The UTP is a 10-year plan that is meant to guide transportation development statewide and is approved by the Texas Transportation Commission annually. It’s not set in stone, but is a critical tool in planning the future.

Our engineers don’t exactly sit on an old brick patio mulling over how best to meet future transportation needs, but my grandfather would have understood the UTP concept. It takes years of study, research, commitment, coordination with stakeholders and input from the public to make it all happen.

The 2020 UTP is now available for your consideration at txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/transportation-planning/utp.html. If you want to see what the transportation footprint could look like in Texas over the next 10 years, take a look at the 2020 UTP. It’s pretty exciting. Whether you are hunting for lost gold or building a multi-million dollar roadway, it requires a few dreamers and some exceptional planners.

Before he died, my grandfather gave me the map where he believed that old gold was buried. I took a look at it the other day and I believe if it is there, it is likely covered by water and major roadways that, over time, will be more beneficial to us all than a bag of gold.

Rhonda Oaks is the public information officer for TxDOT’s Lufkin district. Her email address is Rhonda.Oaks@txdot.gov.