Tag Archives: TxDOT

Here’s an endorsement: Re-elect Ginger Nelson

I might be climbing out on that proverbial limb. Then again, maybe I am not.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has announced she is running for a second term. I wish I could vote for her. I cannot, because I no longer live in Amarillo, my city of residence for 23 years.

However, I can use my voice — as “heard” through this blog — to officially endorse her bid for re-election. So, I will.

Amarillo needs to return Mayor Nelson to the center chair on the five-member Amarillo City Council.

I am glad her “campaign announcement” on Wednesday turned out to be code for a re-election effort. The nebulous language contained in a campaign “announcement” could have meant something quite different.

Yes, the city’s momentum is taking it forward. Mayor Nelson inherited a post that has helped push the city forward. Her two predecessors, Paul Harpole and Debra McCartt, got the wagon moving. Nelson has done well in her first term as mayor to keep the wagon between the lanes and out of the ditch.

She ran in 2017 on a number of campaign promises. Chief among them, as is usually the case, is economic growth. The city’s growth has been tangible, visible and is demonstrably beneficial.

Nelson wants a safe city. Her re-election campaign announcement speech included talk about her efforts to improve public safety. Police Chief Ed Drain has reinvigorated the city’s community policing program and for that he and the mayor and the council deserve high praise.

The city is working well. It’s being rebuilt from stem to stern. Downtown is in the midst of its major makeover. So are highways running through the city (thanks to the work being done by the Texas Department of Transportation). And of course we have the street repair.

The city is on the move. The mayor is a significant player in the city’s movement. It’s going in the right direction.

Re-elect Ginger Nelson.

Coming back to familiar haunts … and headaches

AMARILLO, Texas — We all love to return to familiar haunts. Of that I am quite certain.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I have returned to Amarillo for a couple of days. She and I will attend a concert downtown and then we will return to Fairview, where we now call home.

But returning to Amarillo almost always is a joy for me. I love the feeling of familiarity. It’s a sense of belonging. I don’t need a telecommunications navigational device to guide me from place to place. I can travel quite literally from one corner of this city to another and know my way without the aid of some fancy technological gizmo.

We’ve lived in Collin County for several months. We have returned to Amarillo frequently during that time, taking care of family matters and so forth. We no longer have many of those needs, although we do enjoy spending time with one of our sons, who still lives here.

Our sense of belonging is coming to us steadily in Fairview. We know our way around our neighborhood and a bit beyond. Getting from one end of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, however, presents a whole universe of challenges we don’t face when we return to Amarillo. I’m certain you get my drift. The Metroplex is home to about 7 million individuals, compared to around 200,000 who live in Amarillo. You get the idea.

We’re getting acclimated just fine in the Metroplex.

Now, a return to Amarillo would be damn near perfect were it not for one major impediment: road construction.

I can handle the Interstate 40 and I-27 work. The Texas Department of Transportation is rebuilding the highways that split the city essentially into thirds. The city street department, though, has many streets under repair. Getting through the construction zones is a challenge … to say the very least.

Turn lanes are closed off. Some streets now are “grooved” while crews scrape the top finish off of them. You’ve got flaggers everywhere. The city is awash in orange: cones, signs, barrels.

I know I should be patient. Indeed, I have said as much on this blog. I am doing my level best to exercise patience and maturity as I navigate my way through this mess.

It’s a chore. Bear with me as I struggle to keep my sanity behind the wheel of my car.

I still do enjoy returning to familiar haunts.

Amarillo no longer ‘ignored’ by state

It’s hard for me to believe that at one time many residents of Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle felt “ignored” by the powers that be way down yonder in the state capital in Austin.

Every now and then I still hear the occasional gripe that Austin doesn’t give a damn about Amarillo, or the Panhandle, or those who live there. Those who say such things — or think them privately — need to get out more.

I’ve moved away from there but I return on occasion with my wife. I am amazed at what I see transpiring along the city’s major highways.

I see dozens, maybe hundreds, of work crews toiling to renovate Interstates 40 and 27. I see dozens of trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, road-grading equipment and assorted vehicles of all shapes and sizes  with “Texas Department of Transportation” decals plastered on the doors.

No longer can anyone with a straight face complain about Amarillo being “ignored” by the state.

I don’t know what the dollar figure is on all this work, but it’s got to be in the mid- to high eight figures.

A former state legislator, Republican David Swinford, was known to grumble out loud about the lack of attention Austin was paying to the Panhandle. I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I met the Dumas lawmaker shortly after arrival and asked him whether it was true — as I had heard — that he wanted to split the Panhandle off from the rest of the state. Swinford didn’t deny it categorically and said that he was miffed that the state didn’t pay the Panhandle enough attention.

Well, I guess my old buddy David Swinford has seen his wishes come true.

These work crews are tearing up the highways, not to mention along Loop 335 along the southwest corner of the city. Eventually, TxDOT will begin work extending the loop along Helium Road about a mile west of Soncy Road.

I look forward to watching this all take shape from some distance — except when my wife and I return to do battle along the I-40 as we enter from the east.

You’ve heard it said to “be careful what you wish for”? These days, the grumbling I hear in Amarillo speaks mostly to there being too much attention being paid by the state.

And what about that highway work?

AMARILLO, Texas — I’ve spent a lot of blog time and cyberspace commenting on the progress shown in downtown Amarillo.

I’ll continue to do so.

A return this weekend to Amarillo, however, reminds me of the kind of headache that most cities should welcome. Highway construction!

Wow! Driving into Amarillo westbound on Interstate 40 is a serious challenge. When I watch projects of this magnitude proceed I try to picture what the finished product will look like. I cannot yet form a picture in my mind’s eye what I-40 will resemble when the Texas Department of Transportation work crews finish their job.

It’s gigantic, man!

I am aware of the griping that’s gone on since the beginning of statehood back in 1845 about how Austin doesn’t know the Panhandle exists, how the power center concentrates its collective mind on the needs of those down yonder.

My own sense is that the construction work under way along I-40, as well as along the southern end of Loop 335 (another highway under state jurisdiction) as well as along Interstate 27 at the extreme southern end of Amarillo tells me that Austin is well aware of the Texas Panhandle.

I will continue to beg for patience from my former fellow Panhandle neighbors as they navigate through the chaos that has developed along I-40, I-27 and the loop. I’ll need it, too, when I return periodically for the foreseeable future.

Let’s all be strong together. The virtue that is patience will pay us off.

Patience will be stressed

I guess I am somewhat liberated these days. I can speak about all the road work ongoing in Amarillo, Texas, even though I spend most of my time in our new home in Fairview, just north of Dallas.

I happen to agree with a letter to the editor published in the Amarillo Globe-News about the need for patience as the city and the state repair roads, bridges and highways seemingly in every corner of the city.

“Let us all relax, be patient, and this too shall pass – just not in the construction no-passing zone, please,” writes Alan Tinsley, an Amarillo resident.

Check out Tinsley’s letter here.

I’ve sought to counsel the same thing for years. I will admit that my own patience has been tested at times as I drive through Amarillo.

But I do try to keep some things in perspective. After all, it could be a whole lot worse than waiting to get through an intersection that’s being rebuilt. We could be recovering from devastating floods or heavy wind; our health could go south on us in a flash.

As my wife and I return to Amarillo on occasion, we’ll get to experience the progress as it develops without experiencing some of the hassles of navigating through the work in progress.

To my friends and neighbors in the Panhandle, just keep in mind: There’s an end to it. You will like the finished product.

An alternative to the SH 130 race track uncovered

LOCKHART, Texas — I am happy to report a bit of good news to you as a follow up to an earlier blog post about getting caught on the race track that also is known as Texas 130.

We found our RV camp location at Lockhart State Park, after some difficulty finding our way off of Texas 130, and its posted 85 mph speed limit. That’s all fine. It’s history.

What we discovered is that U.S. 183, which is the highway we intended to take from Austin to the state park, actually runs parallel to Texas 130.

It serves as a sort of frontage road for the nearly 30 miles we need to drive from visiting family members to the place where we’ve parked our fifth wheel RV for a few days.

Good grief, man! If I could have found this highway the first time — the day we arrived in the Austin area — I wouldn’t have had so much angst to share with you in that earlier blog post.

As it turns out, U.S. 183 allows us to cruise along at a “leisurely” 60 to 65 mph, while we watch the speed demons roar along at breakneck speeds just a bit over yonder on Texas 130.

What’s more, we get to do so without being charged a toll.

Who knew?

Life is full of surprises, yes? Some of them are nice surprises to boot!

 

Happy Trails, Part 90

LOCKHART, Texas — It’s time for me to come clean.

I once wrote an essay about a Texas state highway that I swore I’d never travel. It is Texas 130, a stretch of toll road between Austin and San Antonio.

Why come clean? Our retirement journey took us to Texas 130 this afternoon. This is the highway with the 85 mph speed limit. Eighty-bleepin’-five miles per hour, man!

I was alarmed enough that the Texas Department of Transportation allowed motorists to blast along Interstate 10 west of San Antone at 80 mph.

But … 85 mph?

That was the last straw. I am not prone to breakneck speeding on the highway. I won’t poke along, but I cannot fathom having to keep up with my fellow travelers who are so willing to drive faster than most sane motorists would travel.

Well, we ventured to Central Texas from San Angelo today. Our trusty GPS hasn’t been updated to include some of the new construction that’s been finished.

Suddenly, without much warning at all, we ended up on Texas 130 with our fifth wheel in tow behind our Dodge pickup. How in the world did that happen? Well, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

We blundered our way to our next RV campsite at Lockhart State Park. We found a suitable site. We got hooked up. Then we sat under some shade trees to enjoy an adult beverage. We toasted each other for “navigating” our way through the highway chaos that exists in Austin.

As for Texas 130, I now intend to renew my vow to never return to it.

We’ll spend the next few days visiting family in the Austin area. And by golly, we are going to do all we can to stay far away from the state-sanctioned race track disguised as a public thoroughfare.

Wish us luck. Please.

Happy Trails, Part 83

A dear friend has told me that “Happiness is Amarillo, like Lubbock, in your rear view mirror.”

Perhaps. But not entirely.

You see, I am going to miss several aspects of living in the Texas Panhandle. One of them involves the progress my wife and I witness almost daily as we make our way around the city.

Amarillo residents know all too well about the intense highway construction that’s under way along Interstates 40 and 27. They’re rebuilding bridges over I-40. State crews are hard at work along Loop 335 on the southern edge of the city.

I am going to miss watching those projects proceed.

Downtown Amarillo is undergoing an extreme makeover, highlighted by construction — which has just begun — on the multipurpose event venue. The city has made great strides toward the future in the past couple of years, but there remain many miles yet to travel.

I will miss watching downtown continue its march forward.

Amarillo in reality bears little resemblance to the community my wife and I saw when we arrived in early 1995. It has grown up a good bit over the past 23 years. I am not referring just to the population growth.

The city’s airport has been modernized. The stretch along virtually the entire length of I-40 through Amarillo has witnessed a boom in hotel construction; a month barely went by when we didn’t see more hotel construction sites opening up — and more are going up even as I write this brief blog post.

The city has done well during our time here and we have enjoyed watching it evolve.

I will miss watching that evolution continue.

Here’s the thing, though: We’ll be able to return to see the results.

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.

Let the landscaping proceed! Woo hoo!

For a moment this morning en route to a meeting in downtown Amarillo, I thought my lyin’ eyes might be deceiving me.

I approached the Intersta te 40/27 interchange and noticed work crews doing something I’ve yammering about for, oh, seemingly forever.They were digging up the turf at the interchange. Some of the crew members were planting trees. I noticed some more site work as I made the turn onto the ramp.

Can it be possible? Can it be that the Texas Department of Transportation and the city have begun implementing the beautification agreement that Mayor Ginger Nelson said had been struck?

If what I saw is, indeed, what I hope it is, then we are witnessing a serious (in my view, at least) fulfillment of a campaign promise.

Mayor Nelson pledged to make public right-of-way beautification one of her goals while she ran for the office.

I won’t take a shred of credit for seeing this work being done, despite my stated — and repeated — exhortations toward this end.

However, I do want to join those who have said the same thing, which is that the highway rights-of-way through Amarillo present a terrible image to those who are just breezing through.

They need serious work. If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, then I believe we are witnessing an important step toward improving Amarillo’s image.