From the Annals of the Highways – In 1841, the Houston and Austin Turnpike Company was chartered. The plan was to lay out a road from Austin to Houston. The charter allowed the HATC to charge tolls provided that toll gates be located at least forty miles apart. The work was to start within twelve months and be completed in five years. The road was planned to start at Houston, cross the Brazos River within five miles of San Felipe de Austin, and to continue from there to Austin on a route to be selected. Nothing came of the HATC and it was followed by the chartering of another 50 failed attempts between 1841 and 1905.
Considering how long it took the state to make Hwy 71 a four-lane divided highway running from Columbus to Austin, Red is not surprised at the repeated failures. Red reckons that it took almost 30 years for that project to be completed and he is still amazed that there is not a controlled access freeway accessing Austin from the east.
A small part of construction on new Interstate 14 is underway. Now a student coalition is promoting a complete I-14 stretching from Georgia to west Texas. The Youth Infrastructure Coalition wants an I-14 that would create an east-west alternative accross the southern reaches of the US between I-10 and I-20. Frank Lumpkin, YIC’s founder started the group to promote infrastructure and economic growth in an underserved area. In Texas, I-14 would run from the Louisiana border near Jasper, through Huntsville, Bryan/College Station, Temple/Killeen and hook up with I-10 near Fort Stockton.
“If you look at a map and take the demographics of those regions, you’ll find the median household income average is about 22 percent below the average for the entire United States. So, there’s definitely disparity and facts show it.”
YIC envisions I-14 being created primarily be the expansion and improvement of existing highways as a less expensive alternative to building an entirely new highway. In contrast to Rick Perry’s Texas Trans-Corridor proposal – which drew near universal outrage and opposition – I-14 seems to be winning local support as a number of municipalities that would be affected have passed resolutions in support of the super-highway.
San Angelo really wants an Interstate Highway running through its front yard (with apologies to John Mellencamp). Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) has introduced legislation to the House of Representatives that supports expanding Interstate 14 through Midland and San Angelo. The expanded route would begin at I-20 outside of Midland and run through San Angelo to meet the planned route of I-14 at Brady, with another spur connecting to I-10 near Junction.
The most likely method for getting approval would come if the planned expansion could be attached to a major infrastructure bill such as that languishing in Congress with scant attention from the Trump administration. Although it would be nice to have a clearer shot at heading to parts west, Red isn’t holding his breath while waiting for this one.
From the Annals of the Highways – In 1844, the Congress of the Republic of Texas authorized a commission to oversee the construction of the Central National Road. The CNR was planned to run from the Elm Fork of the Trinity River to Kiomatia Crossing on the Red River in far northeast Texas. It was intended to become part of a larger international highway ultimately connecting San Antonio to St. Louis. The Congress provided that the CNR was to be at least 30 feet wide with no tree stumps taller than 12 inches from the ground. Bridges were to be at least 15 feet wide and built of good substantial materials. The project was to be paid for with public land grants to contractors building the road. The rate was to be 160 acres of land for every mile constructed.
The commissioners chose George Stell of Paris, Texas, as surveyor for the project. Surveying work began in April 1844. Stell and his assistant traveled northeast, measuring and marking the exact route, which passed through the present counties of Dallas, Rockwall, Collin, Hunt, Fannin, Lamar and Red River. The route largely utilized existing prairies and natural stream crossings – avoiding densely wooded areas and river crossing requiring bridges. It is unclear if construction was ever completed. The CNR appears to have been short-lived and was replaced by the Preston Road and other early routes.
Red has been on the highway to hell (aka I-35 to Dallas) and other major and minor Texas roads quite a bit this summer. Red has driven all over this great country of ours, and Texans take a back seat to no one when it comes to overly aggressive highway maneuvering. If you aint doing 95 in the left lane partner, you’d best get out of the way unless you like having some angry cowboy drinking a Bud Light in an F-250 pulling a trailer loaded with 2 horses, 6 goats, 5 bales of hay and his mother-in-law right on your ass. And if you’re just doing 75 in the right lane, you’re going to be the last one back to Abilene. Red just can’t remember the last time he saw someone pulled over by a DPS officer. Red has seen a few on the road, but they just don’t seem interested in pulling over Billy Joe anymore unless he has reached triple digits. Perhaps they are all policed out from chasing illegals down on the borderlands.
Apparently, someone is still getting ticketed however. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has posted a list of the counties where you are most likely to get bagged for speeding. So speed read on brother because as they say – Hell aint half full yet.
In what can hardly be called news, the Texas Department of Transportation has revealed that 44 of the State’s most congested roadways are in – of all places – Houston. Even less surprising is that the stretch of the I-610 West Loop between I-69 and I-10 is the worst. Red thanks TxDOT for this valuable information, but is still wondering why nothing was done to relieve congestion when that part of the West Loop was rebuilt about a decade ago. Yes that entire stretch was rebuilt and not a single land was added – with the exception of additional entrance/exit ramps crossing the I-69 interchange. KHOU reports
The annual hours of delay per mile along that one stretch is more than 1.1 million hours.
We asked TxDOT, specifically, about what it’s doing to improve the worst stretch. For starters, connectors at 610 and the Southwest Freeway are being modified. And it plans to build elevated express lanes over the existing loop in the years to come.
The first 25 miles of Interstate 14, or I-14 are nearing completion and will likely be opened near Fort Hood in Killeen before summer. The first segment is a conversion of US 190 to Interstate condition and status. The segment runs west from I-35 in Belton is intended to provide direct access to the main gate at Fort Hood in Killeen.
The purported intent of I-14 is to provide improved highway connections between U.S. Army facilities at Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and Fort Polk and the military deployment ports at Beaumont and Corpus Christi. I-14 is the result of the 2015 act of Congress created the Central Texas Corridor generally along the US 190 route. Various groups are pushing for expansion of the project to provide Interstate access to San Angelo and a connection with I-20 in Midland-Odessa.
The Texas Department of Transportation has revealed a $1.3 billion plan to reduce congestion on Texas’ most jammed freeways. The Texas Tribune reports that TxDOT will focus on 14 hotspots in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth.
Thelargest amount of state funding — $262 million — is going toward relieving congestion on parts of I-35 and U.S. 67 in Dallas. Another $210 million is also going toward I-10 in Houston. The proposal also allocates $148.6 million toward three different projects on I-35 in Austin, a portion of which topped TxDOT’s most recent annual list of the 100 most congested roadways in the state.
While TxDOT regularly allocates funding for road projects around the state, the size of Wednesday’s announcement and the focus on the state’s five largest cities was unusual.
Bugg said the agency is focusing on cities because they are home to two-thirds of the state’s total population, which means they also possess some of the most jam-packed roads. “Kind of a corollary of being home to two-thirds of the Texas population, those five major metropolitan areas are also home to 99 percent of Texas’ top 100 congested roads,” Bugg said. Bugg said Wednesday’s proposal is only the initial phase of a larger effort by TxDOT to clear Texas roads, something that would require further funding down the line.
Newly designated Interstate 14 will stretch from the South Carolina/Georgia border all the way to I-10 in West Texas. The super highway will largely follow the route of U.S. 190 through Texas. Texas cities to be linked by the new Interstate will include Menard, Brady, San Saba, Lampasas, Temple/Belton/Killeen, Hearne, College Station/Bryan, North Zulch, Madisonville, Livingston, Woodville and Jasper.
From the Annals of LBJ – In 1967, the President’s Ranch Trail was dedicated in Wimberley. The 90 mile route includes places in Hays, Blanco and Gillespie counties that were important in the life of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson. It extends from the LBJ Ranch, located on Ranch Road 1 near Stonewall, to San Marcos. From the ranch two approaches are possible to Blanco, from which the main route extends to San Marcos: one, referred to as the north branch, proceeds from Ranch Road 1 via U.S. Highway 290 through Hye to Johnson City, then to Blanco via U.S. Highway 281; the other approach, referred to as the south branch, leads from the ranch to Stonewall and reaches Blanco by means of Albert on Ranch Road 1623. The route from Blanco to San Marcos leads via Ranch roads 165 and 2325 through Wimberley, where Ranch Road 12 leads to San Marcos.
Photo of the Western White Houston from the National Park Service.