Tag Archives: Interstate 35

Horror on the freeway

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We now live in an era that pays tribute to first responders.

With that, I want to offer a brief salute to the men and women who got a horrifying call Thursday morning: There was a multiple-vehicle pile-up on Interstate 35W in Fort Worth.

They found unimaginable carnage on the highway.

The last I have heard, six people died in the crash. Many more were injured. Some of the motorists suffer life-threatening injuries. News media reports told us chilling stories of responders arriving at the scene and then hearing the anguished cries coming from survivors of the wreckage.

They were screaming for help. They were crying out for their very lives. The videos we witnessed on the news are horrifying in the extreme. Semi trucks plowed into other vehicles; some cars were smashed to smithereens, unrecognizable as vehicles designed to carry human beings presumably safely to and from their homes.

Calls went out for medical, firefighters and police personnel to answer the call. One agency called for every person available.

I should point out that they answered the emergency calls in hideous weather conditions. The highway was covered in that dreaded “black ice.” Take my word for it, your vehicle has virtually no control over such a thing; I have been swept away on a black-ice roadway and it ain’t fun.

So, I want to offer not only a word of deep sympathy to those across the Metroplex who lost loved ones in the horrible event, but a salute to the first responders who reminded us once again why we should cherish the work these gallant folks do on our behalf … to protect and to serve us.

Getting to know I-35 up close and, oh, so personal

As you no doubt know, our retirement journey has brought us to the Dallas/Fort Worth Mega-Metroplex, where we now call home.

This enables us to see family members who live in the Hill Country without having to drive damn near half a day to get there; by “half a day,” I mean it took us nine to 10 hours at times to drive there from the Panhandle.

The route from Princeton to Dripping Springs/Austin is much more direct. There is a big “however” I need to attach to that.

However, it also is a good bit more harrowing than our Amarillo-Dripping Springs/Austin jaunts. You see, our route takes us along Interstate 35 from Dallas to Austin, at which point we take a sharp turn west along U.S. 290, enabling us to cruise — more or less — into Dripping Springs.

We just completed a round-trip visit with family folks. The trip home was, shall we say, bracing.

I-35, as I have known for many years, is a virtual free-for-all. Traffic was thick all the way from south Austin until we turned off that interstate highway and headed east for a bit along I-20; we then resumed our northbound trip along I-45.

This traffic flow will take some time for me to get used to it. What’s the answer? Is there a remedy?

Hah! Texas continues to grow rapidly. The Hill Country region is among the state’s high-growth regions. Austin’s population may have passed the 1 million-people mark. It’s exploding down yonder in the People’s Republic of Austin.

There was talk some years ago about building a bullet-train track from Houston to D/FW, or from Austin to D/FW. Then we had that discussion about that monstrous highway from Laredo all the way to the Red River; that talk dissipated when the cost of invoking eminent domain on all that privately held land became known.

Whatever. The traffic problem is only going to worsen in the immediate future as more folks move into Texas and hit the highway from the Metroplex to the Hill Country and beyond.

The traffic flow along that Interstate 35 racetrack has gained one more vehicle, the one my wife and I use when we hit the highway. There will be many millions more to come … for certain.

Austin needs a new interstate highway


SAN MARCOS, Texas — The drive from north of Dallas to just south of the state’s capital city went virtually without a hitch.

Until we got to Austin.

We spent four glorious days in Allen with our granddaughter Emma, her parents and her brothers. Then we headed south for some more Christmas vacation time. In the next day or so we’ll gather with our nieces, one of our niece’s husband, our two great-nieces and my wife’s brother.

Then we’ll head home.

I intend fully to avoid Austin on the way home. Coming through the city this afternoon was no picnic.

Don’t misunderstand: We had no mishaps. We didn’t come to a complete stop at any point on our journey through what’s known in Texas as “The People’s Republic of Austin”; hey, this last Lone Star bastion of liberal politics needs a term of endearment.

But it was around 2 p.m. as we entered the city. It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The traffic isn’t supposed to be this clogged; aren’t many millions of Americans supposed to be taking some time off — at home?

I’ve concluded that Austin needs another interstate highway, an east-west thoroughfare to take some of the stress off that demolition derby track aka Interstate 35.

I read somewhere not long ago that Austin (population that exceeds 800,000 residents) is the largest city in America with just a single interstate highway coarsing through it. I-35 runs north-and-south through the city. There ain’t one that runs perpendicular through Austin, which as most of us know is going through some serious growing pains. Everyone seems to want to live there.

Even though Austin is enduring this growth spurt and with traffic bound to get only worse as more people migrate there, the city is faced with this political reality: It is a Democratic bastion in a heavily Republican state; what’s more, Congress is controlled by Republicans, which would seem to make it problematic if the city hopes to acquire federal highway money to route an interstate highway spur through Austin.

Infrastructure improvements — you know, highways and other things like that — used to be above and beyond politics.

That was then, which of course bears little resemblance to the here and now.


Austin soon may not be so ‘weird’ after all

Well now. It turns out Austin — the Texas capital city and the home of some of the best music anywhere — is grappling with ways to maintain its self-proclaimed weirdness.

Motor vehicles, lots and lots of them, are rattling Austinites’ sense of uniqueness.

NPR broadcast a story today detailing how Austin’s population is continuing to skyrocket and how all those people are arriving in Central Texas aboard all those vehicles, be they SUVs, pickups, sedans, Jeeps, whatever. They’re clogging the city’s streets. They’re making Austin like, well, every other big city in America that apparently has done a good enough job in planning for future growth.


My favorite part of the story was when it told how the Texas Department of Transportation built a toll highway east of the city that is intended to divert traffic away from Austin.

Here’s the problem: TxDOT put an 85-mph speed limit on Texas 130, which I’m guessing has scared a lot of motorists away from the highway. The NPR reporter noted that Austin traffic is still gridlocked but Texas 130 is virtually empty.

How is the city going to deal with this problem, which only is scheduled to get worse in the years ahead? The city’s current population of about 850,000 residents is projected to double in the next two decades. One set of ideas being kicked around is to make Interstate 35 a toll road, take the toll feature off of Texas 130 (and perhaps slow it down a bit, say, to around 80?) and build some light-rail lines through the city to lure people out of their cars.

Good luck with that, Austin.

NPR took particular note of an ironic twist. It said Dallas — long thought to be a bastion of conservative political thought — has built the nation’s largest light-rail transit system while Austin, arguably the last liberal holdout in all of Texas, has done nothing to promote rail transportation.

And Austin remains the largest city in America with just a single interstate highway running through. I-35 has long been thought of as a virtual demolition derby between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio.

Traffic is going to be a great inhibitor to future growth in Austin. That’s the message I got from NPR’s thorough report this morning.

But hey, there’s always the music.