August 30, 2011
It seems the only other topic anyone is talking about is the Republican Presidential nomination. I’d rather run a few miles at 100 degrees than write about that.
So let’s talk about the heat. My son Cooper had a lacrosse scrimmage Sunday night. It started at 7. And it was 106 degrees.
Sunday, of course, tied the all-time record in Austin for heat with a high of 112. By about an hour after sunset – sometime around 9 – it was finally down into the balmy double-digits. And we’re now suffering at least 75 days with highs of more than 100 degrees this year, smashing an 86-year record.
There’s hot. There’s very hot. There’s brutally hot. And then there’s stupid hot. That’s this summer.
It’s so stupid hot, in fact, that the state’s begging everyone to be extra smart about conserving electricity.
Give them a hand and shut off appliances, lights and whatever else you can, particularly between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
If you could tear yourself from heat-related news last week, there was quite a bit going on when it comes to Central Texas’ infrastructure and economic future.
First, I announced a plan to work with the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and various community leaders to do a comprehensive, overarching study of the region’s most congested highway segments – and of what we can do to speed up the traffic.
The study will focus on:
• Interstate 35 between U.S. 183 and Texas 71,
• Lamar Boulevard between 45th and Sixth streets,
• South Lamar Boulevard from 71 into Downtown Austin,
• MoPac Boulevard at 183 on the north and U.S. 290 on the south, and
• Loop 360 between MoPac and 290.
These projects, which are all in Travis County, are the only ones in Central Texas listed among the 50 most congested road segments in the state.
The ultimate goal of this effort will be to identify the best, most cost-effective ways to speed up traffic on these roads, using the considerable expertise of TTI and Central Texas leaders. That work will help prioritize spending from a $31 million pool of money that the region can put toward projects that would alleviate congestion on these road segments.
The $31 million is Central Texas’ share of $300 million that voters approved and the legislature set aside to help address traffic on the state’s 50 most congested roads. It can be used for things such as purchasing right-of-way, doing engineering work or helping develop transportation improvements.
This sort of project should help create a truly comprehensive transportation system that will open up more room to move for commuters, more space to grow for the economy, and more time for hard-working Central Texans to spend with their friends and family.
And hopefully, it’ll yield evidence to those in control of the Capitol of the need to create this essential infrastructure – both for the people who are here and the generation that’s coming.
On top of that, on Thursday, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa laid out his vision for the future of the System’s institutions – a vision that the Board of Regents adopted.
A critically important part of that plan for Central Texas is its emphasis on advanced medical education and research in Austin.
As I said last week, an advanced medical education and research initiative, growing alongside and in partnership with University of Texas System institutions, represents almost limitless opportunity for Central Texans’ economy, health and quality of life. I believe in this vision, and it’s been my privilege to work with Chancellor Cigarroa and Executive Vice Chancellor Kenneth Shine on various strategies to make it happen.
The Chancellor’s plan is important, timely and welcome. Over the next 30 days, I plan to offer a path – and a challenge for our community – to build on his statement so we realize these goals that so many of us have shared for so long. It’s time for us to come together and act, creating a flagship initiative that can fortify our future and lead the world in the fields of medical education, healthcare and bioscience.
A flagship health science center and medical school represent a significant opportunity. We must come together and seize it.
Have you signed up for the big show on Sept. 15?
If you have, take a moment to bask in how bright you are.
If you haven’t, why not?
Come on. Mavis Staples. Charles Bradley. Zilker Park. 8 p.m.
I really wouldn’t miss it if I were you.