Tag Archives: Texas highways

Nice surprise in Texas travel magazine

I have subscribed off and on to Texas Highways magazine for about the past, oh, 30 years … give or take.

My latest issue arrived in the mail while my wife and I were traveling west to Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., and Grand Coulee Dam, Wash.

I looked at the cover title, “Small Town Splendor: The Best Little Courthouses in Texas,” opened the magazine and found something that surprised the daylights out of me. One of the mag’s “best little courthouses” happens to be the Potter County Courthouse in downtown Amarillo.

Why is that a surprise? I expected the list to include really small town courthouses. Among the other 11 featured in the magazine, by the way, is the Donley County Courthouse in Clarendon — which is beautiful structure, too. Texas Highways notes: “The Panhandle’s oldest functioning courthouse, it boasts a distinctive asymmetrical design — no two sides of the building are the same.”

Amarillo ain’t a “small town,” with a population right at 200,000 residents.

The Potter County Courthouse and the grounds on which it sits have become part of downtown Amarillo’s revival about which I have written extensively on this blog. The structure, built in 1932, is “what the Texas Historical Commission calls one of Texas’ best examples of art deco design.

The county applied for a state historical preservation grant to help restore the building. The county emptied the building, moved offices to other locations throughout the downtown district — including the Santa Fe Building and into the Courts Building, which former County Judge Arthur Ware refers to unflatteringly as the “grain elevator.”

The three-year project was done in 2012. The county moved the offices back into the building. County Judge Nancy Tanner established a security system for visitors.

The courthouse grounds have become the home field for downtown’s High Noon on the Square every summer, which features local musicians and other artisans entertaining lunchtime crowds.

The structure really is a gorgeous place for Potter County’s public servants to work.

Thus, I was heartened to see Texas Highways offer a tribute to downtown Amarillo’s courthouse.

Thanks again, TxDOT, for keeping the trees

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ROBERTS COUNTY, Texas — You don’t see many of these around this part of Texas.

They’re trees, man.

But in this rural county, and over yonder just east of here in Hemphill County, they have a relative abundance of them along U.S. 60 and U.S. 83, which intersect in Canadian.

Think of what might have happened to a lot of these beauties.

The Texas Department of Transportation came up with a cockamamie idea some years back to cull a good number of trees from U.S. 60. They posed a “hazard” to motorists in some locations, TxDOT suggested.

TxDOT then put the word out to the public that it was considering getting rid of several thousand trees.

What do you suppose was the reaction in the affected area? Give up? Of course you know! It was an expression of outrage. Residents didn’t want TxDOT messing with them trees, you know. I was writing editorials for the Amarillo Globe-News at the time and the newspaper expressed its extreme displeasure with what TxDOT had in mind.

To its great credit, this state agency listened to the calls. It revised its tree-culling plan, which resulted in a serious reduction in the number of trees it would remove.

The photo attached to this blog was snapped this afternoon right next to the Miami Cemetery in Roberts County. Very soon, the leaves will turn colors.

Motorists who drive along U.S. 60 between Pampa and Canadian will be able to treat themselves to some fall foliage splendor that is about as pretty as it gets.

Thanks, TxDOT, for keeping the roadside eye candy for us to ogle.

State missing road-building opportunity

Perhaps you’ve noticed over a period of time that I like referring to Paul Burka’s blog on Texas Monthly’s website. It provides grist for my own commentary.

His latest item refers to Texas road construction and maintenance.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/road-nowhere

I believe Burka, who’s a smart guy and well-versed in all things relating to Texas government, has glossed over an essential point in extolling the need for the state to pump more money into its highway fund.

It is this: Texas’s economy is built significantly on fossil fuel exploration and development. Therefore, it is in the state’s economic interest — at this time and likely for the foreseeable future — to enable motorists to travel safely on its roads, highways and bridges. Why? Because the vast majority of motor vehicles traveling through the state are powered by gasoline, which comes from those fossil fuels pulled from the ground in Texas.

Burka notes that the state hasn’t raised its gas tax since 1991. He adds correctly that given the mood of the state political leadership, it seems unlikely the Legislature would increase the tax. It’s a matter of politics interfering with good policy.

Do I want to pay more for gasoline when the need arises? No. However, if the revenue were to bolster the state highway fund and create a safer driving environment for my family and me, then I’m all for it.

It’s not that the state is doing nothing. As Burka writes: “The Legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment, to be voted on by the public in November, to provide $1.3 billion for highway projects. Even so, the dollars provided by the amendment will be a drop in the bucket for roadbuilding.”

Texans comprise a mobile society. Those of us who live out here in the vast expanse of West Texas understand that you have to drive some distance to get anywhere.

Road construction and maintenance ought to be a no-brainer for a state as vast as ours — and a state that still relies heavily on fossil fuels to power its economy.