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Fort Worth Star-Telegram ^ | October 28, 2007 | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Posted on 10/28/2007 3:20:06 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks

During this year's legislative session, Texas had an "oh, wait, hold on, don't do that" moment on privately funded tollways. Fair enough, but now it's time to figure out what the state should do, including how to pay for what the state's highway czar calls a $100 billion shortfall in money needed for essential highway projects.

Ric Williamson, the Weatherford businessman who is chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, says "the entire future of the state transportation system" depends on potential revenue from private toll road investors. Without it, staffers with the Texas Department of Transportation told commission members at a meeting last month, the state soon will have only enough money to maintain existing roads, with nothing left for new highways to relieve congestion.

In May, the Legislature -- bowing to a buildup of constituent outrage against private toll road proposals and the thought that some of those projects could go to foreign companies -- slapped a two-year moratorium on new toll partnership contracts. There were a few notable exceptions, including the Texas 121 tollway planned for Denton and Collin counties.

Lawmakers also said a legislative study committee should be named to determine whether heavy reliance on private toll roads is a good idea. The committee is to have nine members, with the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker each appointing three. Five months later, only Speaker Tom Craddick has made his appointments.

Come on, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. This problem is not going away on its own. Even after members are named, legislative study committees are often slow to start their work and slow to move forward. This one will have some heavy lifting to do before writing its required report for the 2009 legislative session.

There's no time like now to get this committee started.

How we got here

It's clear that private toll road advocates have done a terrible job of selling the idea to fellow Texans. Now it's in deep trouble. If the concept is to be salvaged, the legislative study committee will have to gather the right data and sell the whole thing anew -- in a way that constituents can believe is independent of political pressure or influence from those who want to make money from toll roads.

Perry was the first to push private toll roads in 2002, when he proposed a 50-year plan to build the 4,000-mile, $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor. That February, as if to emphasize the point, Fluor Enterprises of Sugar Land submitted an unsolicited proposal to build one of the corridor's priority projects.

By 2003, the Transportation Commission was touting the potential of public-private partnerships to build new roads, saying investors would be willing to pay billions upfront for contracts to build new roads, then collect tolls and share that revenue with the state for as long as 50 years.

The Legislature climbed on board in 2003, passing House Bill 3588 -- a massive rewrite of state transportation law that authorized private toll road contracts, which it called comprehensive development agreements (CDAs).

The Transportation Commission also adopted the Texas Metropolitan Mobility Plan, changing the way it distributed money for highways. For decades, construction projects had been selected and funded one at a time from Austin. The new plan was to allocate money by region and let regional mobility authorities, created under HB 3588, decide how to spend it.

Where things went wrong

In effect, local officials who were named to positions leading those regional mobility authorities (in Dallas-Fort Worth, it's called the Regional Transportation Council), were left to solve their own problems. At the same time that they were given the freedom to spend transportation dollars, it became clear that there were far from enough available.

Highway construction in Texas traditionally has been funded primarily from motor fuel tax revenue. But more and more of that money is needed to maintain existing roads. And Williamson says that costs for labor, asphalt and related materials, right-of-way and engineering work have escalated 65 to 70 percent in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, legislative leaders refused to raise the tax.

And the state's congressional delegation continues to have a hard time increasing the state's share of revenue from the federal motor fuel tax. Texas only gets back about 90 cents out of each fuel tax dollar that it sends to Washington.

It's almost as if local decision-makers are being pushed down a funnel that leads to only one source of money to meet future needs: private toll road contracts.

Opportunity or nightmare?

Williamson says that in 2003, the transportation commission had identified 56 projects in the state's highway plan that private companies would be interested in bidding on because of their potential toll revenue. That number has grown to 87.

Toll roads clearly don't work everywhere. They work best in heavily populated metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth. But Williamson and others are saying that the money that investors are willing to pay upfront for toll road contracts, plus the portion of the annual toll road revenue that they would be willing to share, is the best source of money for other new roads.

If that's the case, so be it. But Texans clearly still need convincing.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: 5thamendment; cdas; collegefunding; constitution; cuespookymusic; eminentdomain; hidalgocounty; mcallen; moratorium; opposition; p3; ppp; privatefunding; privateinvestment; privatesector; privatization; proposition7; referendum; sb792; studycommittee; texas; tolling; tollroads; tolls; tollways; transtexascorridor; ttc; tx; txdot
Visiting State Senator addresses Corridor concerns, college funds

Texas voters to decide eminent domain issue November 6

County loop project $160 million short

1 posted on 10/28/2007 3:20:07 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
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To: TxDOT; 1066AD; 185JHP; Abcdefg; Adrastus; Alamo-Girl; antivenom; AprilfromTexas; B4Ranch; B-Chan; ..

Trans-Texas Corridor PING!


2 posted on 10/28/2007 3:20:45 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Repeal the Terrible Two - the 16th and 17th Amendments. Sink LOST! Stop SPP!)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Let’s go back to horse and buggy. The money’s going to go to “friends” anyway.


3 posted on 10/28/2007 3:25:29 PM PDT by rvoitier
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
what the state should do, including how to pay for what the state's highway czar calls a $100 billion shortfall in money needed for essential highway projects.

Unless TX is VERY different than other states, take out the highway money being earmarked for bicycle paths, light rail, anywhere but highways and that $100 billion shortfall will dissapear.

4 posted on 10/28/2007 3:36:32 PM PDT by Balding_Eagle (If America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: Balding_Eagle

All that stuff is madated by Congress.


5 posted on 10/28/2007 3:41:23 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Just a suggestion, use the gas tax to pay for the highways.


6 posted on 10/28/2007 3:42:35 PM PDT by purpleraine
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To: purpleraine
Just a suggestion, use the gas tax to pay for the highways.

I'm all for that. Let some other revenue stream pay for DART, light rail, bike paths, etc.

7 posted on 10/28/2007 4:03:43 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Repeal the Terrible Two - the 16th and 17th Amendments. Sink LOST! Stop SPP!)
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To: purpleraine
Just a suggestion, use the gas tax to pay for the highways.

I have another suggestion, don't pay their friggin Roman tolls.

8 posted on 10/28/2007 4:06:49 PM PDT by unixfox (The 13th Amendment Abolished Slavery, The 16th Amendment Reinstated It !)
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To: unixfox
The 13th Amendment Abolished Slavery, The 16th Amendment Reinstated It !

The 10th Amendment Established States' Rights, The 17th Amendment Obliterated Them!

How's that for hijacking my own thread?

9 posted on 10/28/2007 4:20:09 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Repeal the Terrible Two - the 16th and 17th Amendments. Sink LOST! Stop SPP!)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

I concur.


10 posted on 10/28/2007 4:22:17 PM PDT by unixfox (The 13th Amendment Abolished Slavery, The 16th Amendment Reinstated It !)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

And...we are on the same page!


11 posted on 10/28/2007 4:23:01 PM PDT by unixfox (The 13th Amendment Abolished Slavery, The 16th Amendment Reinstated It !)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

According to Catilin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina, 2007, many Americans don’t have a map. That’s why they can’t find The Iraq or South Africa.


12 posted on 10/28/2007 5:15:11 PM PDT by Clintonfatigued (You can't be serious about national security unless you're serious about border security)
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To: Clintonfatigued

” many Americans don’t have a map. That’s why they can’t find The Iraq or South Africa”

If they get lost and don’t return, no loss!


13 posted on 10/28/2007 5:22:56 PM PDT by dalereed
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To: dalereed

I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and I believe that our education like such as South Africa and Iraq everywhere like such and I believe that they should our education over here should help South Africa and Iraq and the Asian countries so that we should be able to build up our country.


14 posted on 10/28/2007 6:09:56 PM PDT by SCPatriot77
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

“And Williamson says that costs for labor, asphalt and related materials, right-of-way and engineering work have escalated 65 to 70 percent in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, legislative leaders refused to raise the tax.

And the state’s congressional delegation continues to have a hard time increasing the state’s share of revenue from the federal motor fuel tax. Texas only gets back about 90 cents out of each fuel tax dollar that it sends to Washington.

It’s almost as if local decision-makers are being pushed down a funnel that leads to only one source of money to meet future needs: private toll road contracts. “

The numbers are even worse than that:
1. We get LESS THAN 80 cents back from our gas tax to the Federal govt for Texas roads.
2. There is significant diversion of Texas gas tax monies to pay for DPS and Education, about 1/3rd of the $3.5 billion

This op-ed against Prop 12 explains more:
http://travismonitor.blogspot.com/2007/10/vote-no-on-prop-12-highway-bond-issue.html

The solution is not Prop 12 or toll roads. Two wrongs dont make a right. The solution is really simple:
1) Dont divert the state gas tax
2) Get our money back from the Federal govt
3) index the gas tax for inflation so it doesnt fall behind.

Do all those things and we wont have a crisis anymore.


15 posted on 10/28/2007 6:13:56 PM PDT by WOSG (The beatings will continue until morale improves)
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To: Balding_Eagle

Light rail is expensive. Bicycle paths are very cheap, especially when run on an existing right of way. Cutting them won’t fund much of anything.


16 posted on 10/28/2007 7:11:32 PM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

How about we kick out all the illegals, and close the border so traffic is reduced by the number of coyotes, black marketers and drug runners we shut out. Just kicking out Texas Illegals should eliminate the need for more roads in and of itself. Without the Illegals the roads we have now would handle the traffic with no stress.


17 posted on 10/28/2007 7:48:55 PM PDT by MrEdd (Ron Paul is Ralph Nader for the right...)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
"Gotta map?



Yep.
18 posted on 10/28/2007 7:51:31 PM PDT by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Sprawl is the problem. The white voter base loves to move further and further into the fringes, but they won’t put up with the small country roads that exist there, so they demand the expansion of existing suburb-to-city roads to allow for faster commutes. They also refuse to drive into the city to shop, so they demand new suburban connector roads as well, enabling them to drive from big-box strip center to big-box strip enter without having to mix with the scum from the cities.

And they want all of these for free. “No new taxes!”

Real life doesn’t work that way. There’s no such thing as something for nothing, and nobody forced anybody to move to 258th Street and Plowed Ground Road. Those who want to live in the middle of nowhere should be willing to pay for the road to nowhere. Expecting the state as a whole to shell out the bucks for sprawl is BS. If Joe and Jane Six-Pack want all these shiny new suburban roads, they should either be willing to pay a motor fuel surtax or a toll in return. Those who use the sprawlways ought to pay for the sprawlways.


19 posted on 10/28/2007 8:10:18 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

BTTT


20 posted on 10/29/2007 2:55:35 AM PDT by E.G.C.
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To: Liberty Valance

Shouldn’t the colors on that map be reversed?


21 posted on 10/29/2007 3:51:42 AM PDT by wolfcreek (The Status Quo Sucks!)
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To: Sherman Logan

My point is that most ‘highway funding’ goes for most anything but highways.


22 posted on 10/29/2007 6:23:55 AM PDT by Balding_Eagle (If America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: wolfcreek
"Shouldn’t the colors on that map be reversed?"

No. We need to take back the blue. ;o)
23 posted on 10/29/2007 6:29:57 AM PDT by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
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To: wolfcreek
"Shouldn’t the colors on that map be reversed?"

No. We need to take back the blue. ;o)
24 posted on 10/29/2007 6:32:44 AM PDT by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
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To: Paleo Conservative

Secession has not always been offensive to me...

I’ve seen roads in other states that are way more gnarly than a lot of roads in Texas...

So I am ok with a few bumps and chipped windshields...Nothing is perfect...I just don’t want this “near paradise” to be ruined by companies and former elected officials making money off of this, and not make it any better...

“Standing pat is not an option!”


25 posted on 10/29/2007 7:27:06 AM PDT by stevie_d_64 (Houston Area Texans (I've always been hated))
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To: MrEdd
"...Without the Illegals the roads we have now would handle the traffic with no stress...."

Without illegals here in Houston, traffic would decrease signifigantly, and at least 50% of all accidents would never occur.

26 posted on 10/29/2007 7:28:12 AM PDT by -=SoylentSquirrel=-
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To: B-Chan
"...The white voter base loves to move further and further into the fringes..."

I disagree with your statement, FRiend. The white voter base is forced to move further into the fringes in order to maintain their standard of living, keep their families safe, and avoid the icky ghetto people that ruin the quality of life for everybody.

27 posted on 10/29/2007 7:31:09 AM PDT by -=SoylentSquirrel=-
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To: -=SoylentSquirrel=-
Forced, hell. We live in the inner city and we love it.

I have nothing against people who want to live in the country. What I object to is people who want to live in the country but who insist on dragging the city with them, plowing under zillions of acres of beautiful farm and wilderness land and replacing them with ugly housing developments, strip malls, and concrete deserts. If people would move to the country and live a country lifestyle, that would be fine, but to destroy the little natural beauty we have left in the name of sprawl is a waste and a crime.

The cycle of sprawl is well-established. Like a plague of locusts, white-flighters abandon their city to the ferals, descending upon some country town where the people are too poor to turn down the developers' money. They then transform the town into a wasteland of concrete, with acres and acres of cheaply-built "homes", big-box retailers, and fast-food joints held together by rivers of asphalt. They then raise one generation of alienated kids in this environment of isolation, sell their now-shabby homes to those who can afford them, then abandon the whole thing in place. As they leave, the suburb is taken over by feral humans, completing the transformation of a once-beautiful country town into a slum. The rings of decaying 1950s-1990s suburbs around every major city in America are the result. Meanwhile, the kids of the white-flighters, now adults, are invading the next little country town, 20 miles further out, to begin the process again.

Read Aristotle. Man is a social animal, meant to live in cities, not isolated strip-burgs connected by freeways. The very word "civilization" is based upon "civitas"; no cities, no civilization. Suburban sprawl is bad for the human race because it goes against these core ideas of civilization. It is also ruining the land and bankrupting the public coffers.

Fortunately, it is also economically unsustainable over the long term. Fifty years hence, God willing, the suburbs will be gone, the countrysides will once again be the sole province of farmers, ranchers, and wild animals, and the money we as a society now waste on running away from the problems of living together will instead be spent on solving those problems.

28 posted on 10/29/2007 8:32:12 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Fair enough, but now it's time to figure out what the state should do, including how to pay for what the state's highway czar calls a $100 billion shortfall in money needed for essential highway projects.

Ric Williamson, the Weatherford businessman who is chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, says "the entire future of the state transportation system" depends on potential revenue from private toll road investors.


If that's how he manages the Commission, I'd hate to see how he manages his personal business..

Perry was the first to push private toll roads in 2002, when he proposed a 50-year plan to build the 4,000-mile, $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor. That February, as if to emphasize the point, Fluor Enterprises of Sugar Land submitted an unsolicited proposal to build one of the corridor's priority projects.

Unsolicited my @$$
29 posted on 10/29/2007 10:25:06 AM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: Sherman Logan
Light rail is expensive.

Which is why I don't understand why Perry is such a big fan of it. Light rail has a very specific set of conditions under which it can operate well, efficiently, and without draining money, and Perry (and his appointees and their committees, etc., etc.) have pushed it as the "Wonder Drug That Will Cure What Ails Ya!".
30 posted on 10/29/2007 10:27:13 AM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: B-Chan
Real life doesn’t work that way. There’s no such thing as something for nothing, and nobody forced anybody to move to 258th Street and Plowed Ground Road. Those who want to live in the middle of nowhere should be willing to pay for the road to nowhere. Expecting the state as a whole to shell out the bucks for sprawl is BS. If Joe and Jane Six-Pack want all these shiny new suburban roads, they should either be willing to pay a motor fuel surtax or a toll in return. Those who use the sprawlways ought to pay for the sprawlways.

There are a hell of a lot of Yankees and Californians who have moved into Texas, and as far as they are concerned, it's the government's job to fix the bad decisions they made.
31 posted on 10/29/2007 10:28:40 AM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: af_vet_rr

Don’t ask me. The entire concept is based on just about everybody commuting between city jobs and suburban homes, a traffic flow pattern that doesn’t really exist anymore.

In Jacksonville, the light rail “system” I’m most familiar with, it winds up costing something like $20 per passenger mile, besides burning more fuel per passenger mile than transporting the same number of people in a car. Quite often it runs completely empty. Very bizarre.

OTOH, in Sacramento it works fairly well, but provides only limited alternatives to auto transport.


32 posted on 10/29/2007 10:52:11 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: B-Chan
I don’t care for your *civilization*...too crowed..too smelly. Not good for your karma or your health.

What about people who already lived in the country? Do you think they like the idea of *civilization creeping towards them?

An unfortunate aspect is living in country but, having to commute to cities to carry on your business (we aren’t ranchers although we are farmers in a sense). You can’t wait to get home.

It’s definitely a conundrum.

33 posted on 10/29/2007 1:09:15 PM PDT by wolfcreek (The Status Quo Sucks!)
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To: Sherman Logan

The Detroit ‘People Mover’ light rail is a total failure. Runs a loop in downtown only, around the abandoned buildings. 80% Fed built and maintained.


34 posted on 10/29/2007 1:20:26 PM PDT by Westlander (Unleash the Neutron Bomb)
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To: B-Chan

Here in the DC metro area, people sprawl all the way to the regional shooting ranges—then lobby to shut them down because they are too loud, same with small airports.


35 posted on 10/29/2007 1:26:56 PM PDT by Unassuaged (I have shocking data relevant to the conversation!)
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To: wolfcreek

As I said, I have no problem with people who choose country life over city life. What I object to is the rape of the landscape by city people who move to the country while insisting upon city conveniences. If people want to get away from the smelly crowds, let them accept well water, septic tanks, general stores, clotheslines, and slow driving on two-lane roads in return.

In retrospect, the smart thing to do would have been to change land-use laws back during the ‘50s, when the Interstates were built. Instead of allowing white-flighters to infest and consume the towns on the periphery of the cities using the Interstates, we should have made it a federal mandate that a fifty-mile-wide belt around the corporate limits of each Interstate-served city be zoned “No New Contstruction”. New construction and renovation building permits would have been limited to only those living in the greenbelts already, and all land in the greenbelt could be used only for genuine farming, ranching, and wildlife preserve. That would have prevented the hollowing-out of our cities while preserving the logistical and national security benefits of the Interstate system.

As it is, the only limit to Sprawl is the retail price of gasoline. (The cost of new roads is no limit; the Sprawlsters will insist that the rest of us pay for their big, expensive commuter freeways.) As soon as gasoline reaches the $6-$10/gal. level, the Sprawl will begin to die. Once the era of Cheap Gas is over, people will return to the cities. My guess is that the abandoned sprawlscapes will become “surface mines” to be stripped of usable materials and returned to nature by city-based teams of reclamation workers. The debuilding of Sprawl will be a lucrative industry for future generations.


36 posted on 10/29/2007 2:36:58 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: Unassuaged

Precisely what I mean. They want to escape the city, but they insist on bringing “the city” with them. It’s just insane.


37 posted on 10/29/2007 2:38:08 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: B-Chan
In the case of Austin, we were informed there was no more room for single-level housing development within the city limits. The only way to grow was up. (which is what they are doing at this time with hi-rise condos and such) The Mayor wants 25,000 more people living downtown and a light rail.

Seems like a *rat in a cage* scenario.

Since most of the people who work downtown sit in a cubicle all day, the solution might be for them to work from home, limiting the amount of cars that commute each day.

38 posted on 10/30/2007 4:02:56 AM PDT by wolfcreek (The Status Quo Sucks!)
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To: wolfcreek

Before the red/blue map became so iconic (to the point of labelling certain regions “red-state America”— or, more amusingly, “Jesusland”, would it were so), the incumbent (or the candidate from the ineligible incumbent’s party) was always indicated by blue and the challenger by red regardless of party.


39 posted on 10/30/2007 4:08:35 AM PDT by ExGeeEye (I've been waiting since 11/04/79 to do something about Iran.)
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To: wolfcreek

It seems simple enough to me: if one wants the conveniences of living in a city (24-hour grocery, dry cleaning, access to entertainment), one must be prepared to accept the limitations of city life (high-rise housing, noise level, occasional contact with undesirables). If one wants the benefits of country living (detached housing, quiet, solitide), one should be prepared to live with the limitations of country life (no shopping, services, or entertainment destinations).

In the case of Austin, it’s too late. People move there because they “love Austin”, but they refuse to live with the limitations and inconveniences that are part of Austin life. They want the charm, quirkiness, and natural beauty of Austin without giving up the fast-food lifestyle of Dallas or Houston. The result: suburbanization. The entire county north of 183 is being strip-mined, bulldozed, and plowed under already in order to build locust-hive suburbs. In the process of “loving Austin”, its residents are destroying everything that made it special; ten years from now, the Austin area will be just another version of Dallas/Fort Worth, with strip malls and subdivisions stretching from the city limits to Pflugerville and beyond. Twenty years from now it’ll be a decaying core surrounded by a ring of shabby suburban slums. Meanwhile, the nouveaux riche locust plague will be strip-mining and plowing under Lampasas. Forget the creeks, the wildflowers, the red-tailed hawks, the little farms and ranches — make way for an endless desert of Tyvek dwelling-boxes, six-car garages, and a SuperMegaHyper-Mart on every corner.

Unless, of course, gas goes up to $10 a gallon, or becomes rationed, or becomes “for national defense and emergency use only”.

Which it will, sooner or later.


40 posted on 10/30/2007 8:45:38 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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