I hereby declare that never, ever again should Amarillo consider itself to be some sort of remote outpost in the great state of Texas.
My example? Take a look at all the money, manpower and machinery at work repairing, renovating and rebuilding the highways that course through this city.
Interstate 40, between roughly Quarter Horse Drive and Soncy? Serious rebuilding is underway. Interstate 27 from the I-40 interchange south to 34th Avenue? More reconstruction. I-27 northbound from 26th Avenue? More of the same. Loop 335 on the southern edge of the city? Ditto, man!
I am unaware of the total dollar cost the Texas Department of Transportation is spending on all this work. I’m pretty sure it’s in the high tens of millions.
Let’s flash back for a moment.
I was working in Beaumont in 1991 when I heard about a freshman legislator from the Texas Panhandle who suggested openly that the state needed to partition itself into several parts. This fellow didn’t like the way state government allegedly “ignored” the Panhandle. My initial reaction was, shall we say, not terribly flattering toward this gentleman.
Four years later, I moved to Amarillo and became acquainted with state Rep. David Swinford, a Dumas Republican. I asked him about his desire to carve up the state. He smiled and didn’t deny that was his intent, although it seemed to me at the time that he was only half-serious — or maybe he was half-joking … whatever.
We developed a good professional relationship over the years. I became convinced that Swinford’s desire in 1991 might have taken off had it earned any support from legislators downstate.
Suffice to say today, though, that Amarillo hardly sits at the edge of some desolate frontier. The state ended up building two prison units here about the time Swinford took office; Texas Tech University installed a pharmacy school near the city’s complex of hospitals and medical clinics.
I surely have heard how Amarillo is closer to the capitals of neighboring states than it is to Austin. And, yes, I’ve heard multiple tales of how President Johnson allegedly closed the Air Force base here because he was mad that so many Panhandle counties for voted for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.
But … that was then.
On this very day — and for the foreseeable future — Texas highway construction is telling us that the state is acutely aware of Amarillo’s importance to the rest of Texas.