October 5, 2010
I’m keeping this short and sweet.
In two days (that’s, like, the day after tomorrow), I’ll be throwing my annual party (click here for tickets).
At Zilker Park.
Across the river from Downtown Austin.
With Robert Randolph and the Family band playing for a couple of hours.
On what’s shaping up to be a pretty beautiful night (Please don’t let me be jinxing it by saying that).
Oh, and no political speeches. Just a great party with lots of folks, good music, food and drinks.
So (you ask politely) what does that have to do with you? Well, I’m glad you asked.
In three short days, the concert will be over. And you’ll be left with either great memories of a very fun night (the kind of memories usually reserved for your wedding, the birth of children, or the first time you were able to stay awake during a legislative hearing), or a potentially life-changing deep regret that you missed it.
Click here to get tickets. Tell your friends. And come on out Thursday night.
This really is one of the most fun events of the year, and I’m not just saying that because it’s mine.
I’ve also notified the 10 folks who won pairs of tickets after they signed up to be part of my Facebook network (they know who they are; I’m not sure all of them really want the immortality of being mentioned in the Watson Wire foisted upon them).
Thanks to everyone who signed up, and keep the Facebook connections coming. There’s going to be a lot going on as we head into the election and next year’s legislative session, and signing up on Facebook (by going to this page and clicking “like”) is a great way of keeping up with it all.
Obviously, I’ve been frustrated for a while about the lack of transportation funding in Texas and the apparent inability of those in control to make the investments that we need – and our children will desperately need – to maintain our economic health and quality of life. In my view, a stable economic future is dependent on Texas doing much, much better in this area.
The good news is that some of my efforts to get new projects going in Central Texas have been successful. They will make a real difference for people trying to move around the region.
For example, last week, the Texas Transportation Commission made two grants to Central Texas totaling $153 million. Earlier this year, the Commission reduced road maintenance funds to free up money for some mobility projects.
(Now, don’t get me started on how bad the business model is that Texas has to cannibalize its road maintenance in order to try to find money in the couch cushions to help increase mobility.)
Regardless, I brought the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (the primary regional transportation planning group, which I chaired until recently), the Texas Department of Transportation (or TxDOT) and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (the Mobility Authority) together to make the case that Central Texas should be at the front of the money line.
I’m proud of the agreement we reached. And I’m really pleased with how well the Mobility Authority is doing under the leadership of Chair Ray Wilkerson and Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.
The grants will allow the Mobility Authority to get started on completing the Manor Expressway (US 290 East) project, and to accelerate work on major projects including the MoPac Improvement Project (Loop 1), Oak Hill Expressway (US 290 West), Manchaca Expressway (45SW) and Bergstrom Expressway (US 183 South).
This morning, I’m scheduled to be at a press conference with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, some Texas transportation officials, and others to announce the start of work to finish the flyovers at the Highway 290-Ben White-MoPac interchange in Southwest Austin.
Congestion around those crossings is notoriously bad. So, I’m particularly proud that the City of Austin entered into an agreement with the state through which Austin will front the cost of the improvements, and the state will reimburse the city over time.
While those in control of the state budget have created a funding drought that’s afflicting all of Texas, we’re finally breaking ground on these projects today – thanks to the good work of folks from across Central Texas.
And there are other projects going on in Central Texas that are making a real difference for people trying to move around the region. Here are a couple more examples:
Obviously, these projects don’t cover the region’s transportation needs – not by a long shot. But they will bring real relief to commuters and everyday residents across the region.
And they demonstrate that, with real leadership and vision, the state can address its mobility needs, get Texans out of traffic, and ensure that we won’t max out the infrastructure that has been our birthright or leave our kids with no excess capacity in which to grow their own economy.