Tag Archives: interstate highway system

Does the Trump ‘infrastructure’ plan include this new highway?

EN ROUTE TO LAKE LIVINGSTON STATE PARK, Texas — Donald J. Trump has a few ambitious goals on the table for Americans to ponder. One of them involves what is called “infrastructure.” In other words, the rebuilding, rehabilitating, construction of highways, bridges and the like.

On our way south along U.S. 59, I was struck by signs we saw posted along the highway: “Future I-69 Corridor Project.”

Yep, the plan is to build a new spur in the massive interstate highway network created in the 1950s by another Republican president, Dwight David Eisenhower.

Ike dreamed of the interstate highway system long after he traveled from the West Coast to the East Coast as a young Army officer. It took several weeks to get from coast to coast. That was long before the interstate highway system was built. Eisenhower pushed Congress after being elected president to build the interstate system because he did not want Americans to spend so much time traveling along antiquated roads and highways.

The highway system arguably is Ike’s most profound presidential legacy.

Now there are plans afoot to add to that system through much of East Texas. I would be amazed and impressed beyond all measure if the government is able to pull this off.

U.S. 59 is a nice highway as it is at this moment. We had a wonderful drive south from Northeast Texas through the Piney Woods to Lake Livingston. It is divided by a median along some stretches; even where the medians don’t exist, the highway is well-maintained with smooth pavement.

The plan, if it comes to fruition, is going to result in enormous disruption of people’s lives in communities that sit astride U.S. 59. Cities such as Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Livingston will be torn apart by heavy construction as federal, state and local crews create a limited-access highway through the Piney Woods.

I favor infrastructure improvement. I am not sure that Donald Trump will be able to preside over this massive project. It doesn’t matter to me which president takes credit for its completion.

If such a project is to include the I-69 Interstate Corridor, then the folks along the current highway right-of-way — from Texarkana to the Rio Grande Valley — need to prepare themselves for a serious disruption of their lives.

Happy Trails, Part 23

Please excuse this latest retirement blog so soon after the previous one, but I want to offer tribute to one of the greatest Americans … ever!

Dwight David Eisenhower served his country in two profound capacities: as a senior military officer and strategist who commanded all Allied forces in Europe during World War II; and as 34th president of the United States.

My wife and I are embarking on one of what we expect to be several lengthy trips along the interstate highway system, which happened to be Ike’s crowning achievement — in my view — as president.

We intend over time to haul our fifth wheel RV along back-country roads as well. There’s plenty to see in this great country of ours — as well as the rest of North America — that doesn’t straddle the interstate highway system.

We’ve relied almost exclusively on interstate highways to get us from point to point in our post-retirement adventures.

Ike’s vision for speeding up ground travel across the United States makes it easier for folks such as my wife and me to enjoy this newfound pursuit of ours: RV travel.

The president relied on an experience he had as a young Army officer. In 1919, he took part in a convoy that crossed the country along what was known as the Lincoln Highway. It took him weeks to make the trip.

Thirty-four years later, he took the oath as president and embarked on another journey of a political kind to persuade Congress enact the Interstate Highway Act. Construction began in 1956, with states competing for attention over which of them had the first “interstate highway.”

Whatever the case, what we have now is a remarkable network of highways. Some of the are turnpikes that require motorists to pay tolls to pass along them; we plunked down $5 at two toll booths in West Virginia, but didn’t begrudge the state one bit, as the highway is magnificent.

President Eisenhower was a visionary man, although he might not have been called one at the time he led the nation.

His legacy is laid out in every single state of this great nation.

Yep, make no mistake: I like Ike.

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.


75 mph? Hey, no big deal

My good friend Paige Carruth is going to flip when he gets wind of what I’m about to write next.

I’ve gotten used to driving 75 mph on our highways.

There. It’s off my chest. I feel cleansed already.

Why the change of heart?

Flash back to the mid-1990s. I was writing editorials for the Amarillo Globe-News. Congress had just been taken over by Republicans in that historic Contract With America election. The federal government had enacted since the 1970s a federally mandated 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways. We took the position then that lifting the limit was dangerous on a couple of levels.

The feds had enacted the speed limit to reduce fuel consumption; the Arab oil embargoes of 1973 and 1979 frightened us, remember? Reducing the speed in fact reduced our consumption of fossil fuels. What’s more, it reduced the number of traffic fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Congress didn’t listen to us. The 1995 Congress removed the federal mandate and gave states the authority to jack up the speed limits. Texas jumped all over it and the 1995 Legislature bumped the speeds up to 70 mph on interstate highways. I was mortified. I said so at the time publicly, in my column; the newspaper editorial policy suggested it was a mistake as well.

Paige — a retired West Texas State University administrator — has never let me forget that I am a slow-poke by nature.

Well, that was true then. It’s not so true now.

I’ve gotten used to the 75 mph speed limit. The state has since boosted its speed to 75 on many highways — interstate freeways and state-run highways.

Allow me this tiny boast: My wife and I today returned from a weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where we visited our granddaughter — and her parents. We left their home in Allen this afternoon at 1:40; we pulled into our driveway in Amarillo at 7:37 p.m. That’s less than six hours in what usually takes us a lot longer.

The 75 mph speed limit helped us set what we believe is a personal land-speed record.

It helps that one of our two vehicles is a Toyota Prius hybrid that gets stupendously good fuel mileage, which enables us to justify our willingness to press the pedal to the metal. It also helps that the little car — to borrow a phrase used by the late great Hall of Fame baseball pitcher-turned announcer Dizzy Dean — can really “pick ’em up and lay ’em down.”

I feel better already having acknowledged that driving a little faster doesn’t give me the nervous jerks the way it once did.

Let’s not talk about driving 80 mph, which is allowed on some sections of Interstate 10 downstate. And Texas 130, where they allow you to goose it to 85? I’ll leave that stretch of roadway to the fools.