Tag Archives: Loop 335

An actual loop coming?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — We returned to a city we once called home and made a wonderful discovery.

As we hauled our fifth wheel toward the RV park where we usually stay when we visit, we came across a massive right of way under construction west of Soncy Road. It goes north-south parallel to Soncy.

I knew it was coming. I knew about plans to build this roadway. I still was struck by the scope of the construction work.

The Texas Department of Transportation is extending what is known around here as Loop 335. It’s a loop in name only. It is no such thing as a loop the way other cities have built them. The intent of highway loops is to allow traffic to speed around cities, allowing motorists to avoid congestion.

That isn’t the case with Loop 335’s western-most portion, the part that runs from Interstate 40 south to Hollywood Road. The commercial develop along the existing leg of the loop has turned Soncy into just another uber-busy street.Ā  I drove it hundreds of times while we lived in Amarillo. I got stuck in traffic countless times over the years.

I want the loop extension to succeed. I am proud of many aspects of Amarillo, its economic development and its infrastructure. What has always puzzled me is why TxDOT built Loop 335 and then allowed it become just another busy street along its western-most corridor.

It’s not a loop now. It will become one eventually when they finish the work and then connect the western corridor with the newly finished and improved southern corridor.

They’re actually building a loop around Amarillo! Woo hoo!

AMARILLO, Texas — This one got past me, which is no surprise, given that I now live about 375 miles east-southeast of here.

We returned to the city we called home for more than two decades and I discovered that the Texas Department of Transportation has been working on rebuilding Loop 335 around the western edge of the city.

The RV park into which we pulled our fifth wheel sits just a bit north of where the work is ongoing. One of the managers there told me that it’s “going to get crazy around here” for a lot of years into the future as TxDOT seeks to remedy what it should have done years ago when it build Loop 335 … which in reality isn’t a loop at all.

As if the years-long widening of Interstate 40 hasn’t created enough hassle and headache for motorists.

I have lamented before on High Plains Blogger that Amarillo’s loop — such as it is — doesn’t resemble a real loop, such as the one that encircles Lubbock, about 120 miles south of Amarillo. However, as one observer told me years ago, it certainly helped when Loop 289 got the go-ahead to circle Lubbock, the governor at the time, Preston Smith, was, um, a native of Lubbock. Hey, it helps to know people in high places.

Loop 335 has become a bottleneck along Soncy Road from Interstate 40 to Hollywood Road.

TxDOT finally got off the dime and started building an extension of the loop west of Soncy. From what I have understood all along, TxDOT is going to created a limited access loop that allows traffic to flow easily. They’ve nearly completed an improvement to Loop 335 along its route along the southern edge of the city.

What has always struck as odd, weird and frankly beyond rational explanation is why they built the thoroughfare to encircle Amarillo without thinking of it as a “loop” that functions the way roadways of this nature usually do. Loop 289 is designed to allow traffic to bypass Lubbock central areas. The aim is to lessen traffic to the extent it is possible.

I can’t help but wonder if the state had done the right way when it first built Loop 335, it might cost the state a good bit less than what it is spending now all these decades later. Just sayin’, man.

The length of time it takes to finish Loop 335 along Helium Road in Amarillo remains a mystery to me. We’ll be back many times in the months and perhaps even years to come. I suspect we’ll see more progress develop with each visit.

Oh, and highway crews still have that monstrosity along I-40 to complete.

I’ll keep our many friends here in our thoughts and prayers.

Loop 335 to take center stage yet again

Take a gander at this picture, notably the sign identifying Helium Road. It’s in far west Amarillo, Texas. It runs north-south west of Soncy Road.

Eventually, Helium Road is going to become a very important thoroughfare for the region, just as Soncy Road was supposed to be when it was built so many years ago.

The Texas Department of Transportation recently had one of those ceremonial groundbreaking events signifying the eventual start of construction along Helium Road. TxDOT is going to turn Helium into a newly relocated Loop 335, which circles Amarillo.

Loop 335’s western section now runs along Soncy Road. It has been a serious puzzle to me for years. When TxDOT built Soncy, it did not create a thoroughfare that allows motorists to use the loop as it should have been used: as a way to bypass city traffic.

Soncy Road has become, well, just another busy street. Starting at Interstate 40 and heading south, traffic often slows to a crawl with motorists pulling in and out of strip malls, business malls, a couple of major automobile dealerships, restaurants and a newly developed residential complex.

Loop 335 does not exist as a loop the way, for example, Loop 289 exists in Lubbock. Loop 289 is a raised highway that circles Lubbock; there is limited access on and off the loop. It functions as a bypass highway.

Loop 335 as it has been allowed to develop has turned into something quite different at least along that westernmost quadrant.

Well, Helium Road is about to be torn to pieces. TxDOT will extend the loop past Soncy and run it along Helium. There will be serious disruption along Helium. Indeed, there exists an RV park where my wife and I often stay when we return to Amarillo in our fifth wheel; the RV park sits right on Helium Road, just north of I-40.

So, I’ve got a bit of skin in that particular game.

I don’t know when the work will begin. Nor do I know how long it will take. I am quite certain that Amarillo motorists who have grown weary of the incessant interstate highway construction on I-40 and I-27 will be gnashing their teeth once the work starts on the “new” Loop 335.

My best advice? It’s not much but it’s the best I can do.

Be, um, very patient.

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.

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 sheĀ might choose toĀ drive southbound through traffic that is choked often toĀ 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 seeĀ much of that interstate traffic diverted away from Soncy — and onto an extension that deservesĀ 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 eastboundĀ 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?


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


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 spokeĀ 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.