Tag Archives: Loop 335

Orange is the new ‘yellow’ in Amarillo

I have concluded that Amarillo needs to declare “orange” as the city’s official color.

Yes, “Amarillo” means “yellow” in Spanish. And oh brother, the grasslands surrounding the city are quite, um, yellow at the moment, given our absolute absence of any moisture for the past four months.

But orange is the predominant color one sees when driving damn near anywhere in this city of 200,000 residents. Orange seems to highlight every street there is. Orange cones. Orange barrels. Orange “Road Work” signs. Orange “detour” signs.

I also will concede that the abundance of orange is trying my patience as a fairly conscientious motorist.

Traffic is snarled on thoroughfares that are busy even when there’s no construction occurring. Coulter Street? Soncy? Grand? Pfftt! Forget about it! Don’t even think you can anywhere in a hurry if you have any thoughts of driving along those busy streets. They’re torn up.

Those are the city jobs.

How about the Texas Department of Transportation, which has crews working feverishly along Interstates 40 and 27 and Loop 335? I’ll say this about the TxDOT jobs: At least the traffic is moving smoothly along I-40, which my wife and I travel most frequently during the course of our day.

Today we noticed something that reminded me of a quip my late uncle once threw at me when he and my late aunt were traveling through Beaumont, where my family and I used to live.

TxDOT was rebuilding Interstate 10 in the late 1980s. Tom and Verna Kanelis came through town one year. They returned two years later — and the work was still under way! Tom called when they arrived, and then asked with good-natured derision: “What are they using out there to dig that highway? Spoons?”

Today, my wife and I watched five TxDOT employees at the Soncy-Interstate 40 overpass, digging and slinging dirt with shovels.

They might as well have spoons. My beloved Uncle Tom would have laughed out loud.

Road woes persist in Amarillo

Some issues give me heartburn, particularly when they contain no easy solutions or options for those of us affected by them.

Highway, street and bridge construction fall into that category.

I’m hearing some grumbling about a major reconstruction project underway here in Amarillo, Texas, that is causing grief for motorists and business owners nearby.

The Texas Department of Transportation is knocking down a bridge that spans Interstate 40 at Bell Street. It’s causing serious traffic disruptions. The project will take months to complete. The bridge will be inoperable until November, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.

The state is spending more than $7 million on just that project alone! Oh, and then we have that Loop 335/Hollywood Road reconstruction project on the south end of the city.

How do the city’s residents and business owners cope with this madness and mayhem? With extreme patience, I venture to say. Whether this kind of work is being done in a mid-sized city such as Amarillo, or in a major metropolitan area, or even in a small rural community, someone, somewhere is going to get upset.

Just the other day, I was running an errand that took me from my southwest Amarillo home to a location near Sunset Center. I drove north along Coulter, hoping to catch the freeway east to Western Street. That’s when I discovered the work being done on I-40. Crews were diverting every vehicle off the highway onto the frontage road.

If I had been smarter and more attuned to what’s going on around the city, I would have taken Wolflin Avenue east from Coulter to my destination. I didn’t. I got stuck in traffic. Lesson learned for the next time I have to travel in that direction.

I tend to avoid getting too worked up over these highway and street projects. I try to see it as a glass-is-half-full deal. I like to look at the big picture, take the long view.

When it’s done, we’ll have a new bridge to cross when we travel north-south along Bell Street.

I just hope the new span will lend some aesthetic quality to the highway. Heaven knows the city needs it.

Hoping the ‘loop’ becomes a loop for Amarillo

I have many wishes for the city where we live.

Amarillo is a wonderful city. It’s on the move. Its downtown district is undergoing a major makeover and will become a wonderful place to go for entertainment and business.

One of my wishes? It’s for Loop 335 to become an actual loop that circles the city of nearly 200,000 residents.

It is no such thing at the moment. It hasn’t been for, oh, several decades. Loop 335, aka Soncy Road on the city’s western border, has become just another busy street.

What is the state highway department planning for the loop?

Here’s what I understand.

The Texas Department of Transportation plans to extend the western corridor along Helium Road, about a mile west of Soncy. How far along is TxDOT in this endeavor?

My wife and I drove along Helium Road just the other day while running an errand. We found a gravel road from Hollywood Road north almost to Interstate 40. No work has yet begun on Helium.

Now, is there work ongoing on the loop? Yes. It’s occurring on the southern stretch of Loop 335 between Bell Street and Washington Street. TxDOT is turning the loop into what it calls a “limited access” highway.

The Soncy corridor needs lots of work.

We’ve been able to travel through a good bit of Texas during our three-plus decades living here. We’ve been to communities of Amarillo’s size and considerably smaller with actual loops that allow easy transport around those communities.

If a truck is eastbound on I-40 and must exit the freeway because it is carrying “hazardous cargo,” the driver must exit at Soncy — where he or she might choose to drive southbound through traffic that is choked often to a stop.

My wife and I will be long gone before the western loop extension is completed. We hope to return to visit frequently in the years to come. When we do, my hope is to see much of that interstate traffic diverted away from Soncy — and onto an extension that deserves the name Loop 335.

What we have now is nothing of the kind.

Modernization continues in Amarillo

Road construction sign.

Amarillo’s modernization process is continuing.

Given that I don’t get downtown as much these days, I tend to notice changes more readily. The latest big change to catch my eye can be seen from the northbound lanes of Interstate 27 as you approach the Interstate 40 interchange.

The state highway department has begun work on the interchange to create a direct connection from eastbound I-40 to southbound I-27.

To say it’s long overdue is to say, well, a whole lot.

For too long motorists traveling east on I-40 have had to exit the freeway and take an access road if they wish to transfer to southbound on the Canyon E-Way.

Once the state finishes the work, that pain in the posterior will be eradicated. Motorists will be able to make the direct connection quickly and easily.

This is occurring, of course, as downtown’s major makeover continues apace and as the highway department continues its painstaking work along the southern segment of Loop 335 to create a limited-access highway that will serve as an actual loop.

Will there be headaches along the way? Sure. Progress also produces them.

I’ll just caution all of us who live and/or work in the Texas Tundra’s “capital city” that the finished product — whether it’s the freeway interchange, the loop that really isn’t a “loop” or the city’s central business district — will be sights to behold.

Patience, man. Patience.

 

How about a State of the City speech, Mr. Mayor?

Councilmen_2015

I’ve asked this before, and didn’t get much reaction to it.

Why doesn’t the Amarillo mayor deliver an annual State of the City speech?

Governors give State of the State speeches. And, yes, some mayors craft annual speeches on the state of the cities they govern.

Not here.

I once broached the idea out loud and then-Mayor Debra McCartt gave what I believe was a single speech. I can’t remember its content, which I guess might be why mayors here don’t bother with such speeches.

However, the city has gone through quite a lot of change in the past 10 months.

We elected three new City Council members, the city manager quit, as did the city attorney; the assistant city manager retired. We had a municipal referendum on the ballot this past November on whether to support construction of a $32 million multipurpose event venue/ballpark downtown; voters approved it.

A lot of work is ongoing.

State transportation department crews are digging up highways all around the city; we’re going to get a new western segment of Loop 335 installed; the southern portion of the loop also is under construction; streets are torn up.

We’re getting a new downtown hotel and parking garage.

Why doesn’t Mayor Paul Harpole — and then future mayors — make it part of their official duty to inform us at the start of every calendar year about the state of the city?

We’ve got a Civic Center that could serve as an appropriate venue. We have public access television provided by our cable network to televise such an event.

Amarillo residents keep getting battered by the media — and I include myself here — for failing to vote in sufficient numbers. Do we not care to know how our city is faring?

Consider this yet another request for the mayor to give us the nitty-gritty on how Amarillo is progressing. And I’m even open to hearing where the city has fallen short and how the mayor intends to make it right.

 

Vets get fitting honor with highway loop

loop

Every year at this time, veterans from around the Texas Panhandle gather at the Randall County Courthouse Annex.

They slap each other on the back, some reminisce about common experiences in the military. Those who had served in war zones compare notes, swap stories and thank each other for their service.

They sit in front of the Texas Panhandle War Memorial and hear speeches and proclamations and expressions of thanks from elected officials.

Today, though, they also heard during the Veterans Day ceremony about a worthy dedication.

Loop 335, a 43-mile thoroughfare that encircles Amarillo, has been named Veterans Highway. Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell and Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner spoke about that dedication.

I am grateful that the loop now honors those who served their country.

There once was a time when I thought Loop 335 would provide a fitting memorial to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wrote something to that effect in a column many years ago. I still want the community honor Dr. King in such a fashion someday and I hope that comes to pass.

Loop 335, given that it circles the city, holding it together, provides a fitting way to honor whomever the city and the counties through it travels choose.

The western-most segment of the loop, of course, will be extended beyond Soncy, which has become just another busy street in Amarillo. The state has begun expansion work on the southern portion of the loop to ensure that it remains free of the congestion that clogs Soncy.

Now the thoroughfare honors veterans as it carries the name Veterans Highway.

This veteran thanks the city and the two counties for their actions to honor those who’ve answered the call to duty.

 

‘Numbers don’t lie’

I’ve known Walter Riggs for a number of years. We served in the same service club together. He’s a banker and a smart fellow devoted to Amarillo.

He’s been on a tear lately, bemoaning the negativity surrounding the campaign relating to downtown redevelopment efforts in Amarillo. He posted this item the other day on Facebook:

“These metrics demonstrate why your city achieved a Triple A Bond Rating, one of only two municipalities in Texas to boast this. And what’s more amazing is it happened in 2009, in the depths of the 2nd worst recession in the history of the U.S. So to those that spread chicken little, sky is falling propaganda our city is poorly run, including political candidates trying to scare voters into voting for them, numbers don’t lie.”

He seeks to make a critical point about Amarillo’s current standing and its future.

Riggs notes that the city has acquired a AAA bond rating, which is about as good as it gets. I remember former City Manager Alan Taylor telling me with great pride that the city had achieved that rating. Taylor took a lot of credit for it, and deservedly so.

Yet we keep hearing from a faction — and I don’t think it’s much greater than that — that gripes about the city being “poorly run.” How can that be?

I ran into lame-duck City Councilman Ron Boyd today and railed to him about the complainers. Obviously, I was “preaching to the choir,” as the saying goes. The city can boast of its excellent bond rating; it can be proud of its low tax rate; it can take pride in the huge new infrastructure improvements planned for the western corridor of Loop 335.

The city, moreover, has laid the groundwork for a downtown renovation strategy that, to my way of thinking, makes sense. It is doable. It can be done without burdening property taxpayers. It will rely on revenue generated by people visiting here from elsewhere who pay hotel-motel taxes.

And yet there are those who contend the city is run poorly?

What in the name of civic pride is going on here?

 

Loop might yet become a loop

I think I’m having a flashback.

Some years ago, I heard the arguments for and against rerouting Loop 335, aka Soncy Road, a bit farther west to create an actual loop around Amarillo’s western edge.

Then the discussion ended.

It’s being revived, as the Texas Department of Transportation is considering a costly and comprehensive reworking of the so-called loop into something that would create a traffic bypass around what’s become one of the busiest commercial corridors in the city.

http://amarillo.com/news/latest-news/2014-10-15/txdot-wants-redo-loop

It’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s going to be the result, presumably, of a lengthy round of public hearings in which the city and the state will receive comment from affected individuals.

Good luck with this one, ladies and gentlemen.

Loop 335, as one of the commenters noted in the online post attached to this blog, isn’t really a loop the way Loop 289 is in Lubbock. Loop 289 was built correctly the first time, with limited access roadway encircling the city. If you miss your appointed exit in Lubbock, all you have to do is stay on the loop, circle the city and exit the loop. It’ll take some time, but it’s a sure-fire way to get pointed back in the direction you want.

Here? Well, we don’t have that kind of thoroughfare.

It’s developed along Soncy. Head east where Loop 335 makes the turn south of the city and development begins to thin out when you get past Washington Street. The rest of the 40-some-mile-long loop is relatively vacant of the commercial development you see on Soncy.

I recall hearing that TxDOT wanted to create some limited-access roadway along the southern edge of the city. Maybe that will help.

Now there might be a connection with the westernmost route along Loop 335, if it gets extended.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for this improvement. Still, I wish everyone at TxDOT and City Hall well.

75 mph? In this neighborhood?

My wife and I made a discovery this afternoon while hauling brush to the relocated City of Amarillo mulching/brush drop-off site at the corner of Hollywood and Helium roads.

It was a speed limit sign at the edge of a residential neighborhood. You know, the type of place with kids running around and moms hauling their children to and from this or that event.

The sign said “75 mph.”

What? Seventy-five miles per bleeping hour — on this stretch of road with no shoulders, so near those homes?

OK, so maybe I need to get out more.

Then again, with speed limits like that on streets so close to the city limits, maybe I ought to just stay home, cover myself up and let others compete for space on race tracks disguised as city streets.

I’ve already noted my growing comfort with 75 mph speed limits on most open highways in Texas. The Legislature boosted them this session, believing apparently that 70 mph just isn’t fast enough. Hey, if you want to really push the pedal to the metal, take Interstate 10 down yonder, just west of San Antonio and you’ll get to drive at 80 mph legally. Then we have that miserable stretch of highway aka Texas 130 between San Antone and Austin where you can dead-head it at 85 mph. No thanks on that one.

Texas transportation officials and the city might want to reconsider the speed limit on that stretch of road just west of Loop 335 … and when I say “just west,” I mean exactly that.

It’s open road west of that location. There you can boost the limit to 75 — just not so close to that residential neighborhood.

Loop 335 facing stressful time in Amarillo

Driving south on Soncy Road this morning, my attention turned to that big retail-residential complex going up just west of Hillside Christian Church.

It took forever to lay the foundation for it, but now the framing has begun. It’ll be a huge boon to the west end of the city — and figures to remake what once had been called a “loop” around Amarillo, Loop 335.

We’ve all seen that the loop doesn’t serve that purpose so much now. It’s now just one more busy street that’s going to get a lot busier once the new complex is completed.

I then thought about something I read recently about how the Texas Department of Transportation is going to start work soon on the southern end of Loop 335, turning it into a “controlled access” thoroughfare from Bell to points east. That will mean TxDOT will make access onto the loop more restrictive, I reckon by getting rid of the cross street access onto the street. The state will erect on- and off-ramps to create something of a highway that skirts the southern edge of a city that’s growing.

One of the mysteries that continues to nag me is how Loop 335 became such a mishmash. My understand all along is that it was built to serve motor vehicle traffic the way Loop 289 does in Lubbock. Loop 289 is a controlled access highway as it circles the Hub City. If you need to get to the other side of the city, take the loop and zip around until you find the exit you want.

Loop 335 doesn’t have that characteristic. It’s just a really busy street, especially from Interstate 40 south to 45th Avenue. Travel farther south toward Hillside Road and you see even more development sprouting up.

To what end is TxDOT’s plan for the southern loop? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Meantime, Soncy Road continues to evolve into something to be determined later.