Thursday, May 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
The sense of shock is settling in in West, Texas after last week's fertilizer plant explosion. Lauren Silverman, reporter for KERA in Dallas, Texas, provides an update on how the residents of West are coping and the process of rebuilding.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Whether it’s the capitol city of Austin or small towns like Marfa, Texans love their state. And they have even more reason to love their state now. For the fourth year in a row, Houston has been ranked the number one place Americans are relocating to. This is based on findings from UHaul. What makes the sprawling city of Houston so special? We decided to ask two people who’ve moved there in the past few months.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
How Security Video Helped Authorities Identify Possible Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect | From Spectator to Witness | Why the Background Check Bill Failed | 100,000 Volunteer Proofreaders and a Whole Lot of Books | The Digital Public Library of America Launches, Providing Online Access to All Kinds of Media | Why Houston is Number One | Oregon Man Becomes the First Publicly-Traded Individual
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
A breaking story in Texas involves the double murder of the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife last month. The killings of Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia and an Assistant District Attorney, Mark Hasse, was investigated as a possible right wing militia killing but it turns out to be a former employee and his wife on a vendetta of revenge.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Now that Texan demographics are changing, many are starting to wonder if the Lone Star State is headed back to blue. For the first time, big Democratic donors are starting to pour money into Texas in anticipation of it becoming a battleground state as early as the 2016 presidential election. One such donor is Steve Mostyn, a Texas trial lawyer and one of Barack Obama’s biggest financial supporters in 2012.
Monday, April 01, 2013
According to our partner The New York Times, a prosecutor in Kaufman County was gunned down in his home. His wife was also killed. It's the second killing of a prosecutor in the county, and investigators believe the two crimes are related. Bill Zeeble is a reporter for Takeaway affiliate KERA in Dallas, Texas.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
The sequester — Washington, D.C.’s worst-case scenario of automatic cuts and budgetary reductions — is upon us on March 1st. The White House wants us to know that our states will be directly harmed: and that’s why it’s produced a state-by-state list of affected programs.
A look at the Texas ...
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Gail Collins talks to Leonard Lopate about American politics and the disproportional influence of Texas, which has become the model for not just the Tea Party but also the Republican Party.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
On this week's From the Top coming to you from Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas, an outstanding teenage violinist who originally taught himself to play by watching videos on YouTube, will solo with the mighty Dallas Symphony Orchestra. You'll also hear teenage members of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra join the Dallas Symphony pros in a side-by-side rendition of The Great Gate of Kiev from “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Legislators gathered in the Texas State Capitol on the eve of the next Legislative session. For conservatives it was a mixture of feelings about what just happened last November. Here's what the head of the Texas Republican Party Steve Munistieri had to say: “If only men had voted, Romney would be president. He won the male vote 52-45. That's pretty significant."
Thursday, January 10, 2013
More than twenty years ago, Suzanna Gratia Hupp witnessed the death of her parents at the hands of a gunman at a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen Texas. Since then, she's remained vocal on the topic of gun control and pushed for laws allowing concealed handguns as a legislator in the Texas House of Representatives.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
As of January 1st, Texas began its own, state-funded Women's Health Program, forgoing federal Medicaid funds to avoid using Planned Parenthood health providers. Ben Philpott, senior reporter for KUT in Austin, discusses the new program and how it serves low-income women in Texas.
Friday, September 07, 2012
As the saying goes, 'everything is bigger in Texas,' and soon that will apply to the speed limit. The Texas Transportation Commission approved a new maximum speed limit of 85 m.p.h. That will make the Lone Star State the lone state with claim to the highest speed limit in the nation when it is implemented in November. As the Los Angeles Times points out, that means you can legally drive faster than hurricane force winds.
The first stretch of road slated for the speedy honor will be a 41-mile stretch of brand new toll road set for completion in November connecting Austin to Seguin.
It seems that money is at least partly a motivator in pushing the limit, according to this from the AP:
"The state contract with the toll operator allows the state to collect a $67 million up-front cash payment or a percentage of the toll profits in the future if the speed limit is 80 m.p.h. or lower. At 85 m.p.h., the cash payment balloons to $100 million or a higher percentage of toll revenues.
"Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Veronica Beyer says "we must continue to look for innovative ways to generate revenue and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.""
There is no federal speed limit. Utah and some sections of Texas road currently have the highest posted speed limit in the U.S. at 80 m.p.h. Years back, Montana experimented with a speed limit of "reasonable and prudent" during daylight hours. That amounted to no speed limit at all to many motorists. Eventually a driver appealed a speeding ticket and won, which led to the law being struck down and replaced with a 75 m.p.h. limit.
Naturally, safety advocates aren't so thrilled with the idea of a national creep towards an American Autobahn. Accidents are more deadly the faster you are going. However, as this National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report shows, speeding is different from going fast. There is a heap of academic guidance on how to set a safe speed limit based on road conditions. Texas has determined that on this new stretch of road, 85 m.p.h. is safe. As this 1992 study found, most people drive how fast they will drive, regardless of the speed limit, though ticketing does spike when you lower the limit ... and that could help keep driving safe.
No word yet if ticket revenues were also factored into the Texas decision. The transportation commissioners haven't issued a comment about the change.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Fifty-five years ago this week, Van Cliburn was feted in New York City for his gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. Our sister station WNYC covered the young Texan's triumphant return.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
A new riddle for you: when is an Interstate not an Interstate?
For decades, the criteria for designating new or improved roads as Interstate Highways were fairly straightforward. The Federal Highway Administration would certify “that the segment (a) is built to Interstate design standards and (b) connects to the existing Interstate System.” In short, Interstates had to be Inter-state.
But not any more. With the signing of MAP-21 last week, the law has been changed to do away with requirement (b) and allow disconnected pieces of floating “Interstate”—as long as the segment is “planned to connect to an existing Interstate System segment” in the next 25 years.
This might seem like a strange, even absurd, tweak to make, especially as part of such a contentious bill. But the provenance of the language makes its purpose clear. The change in definition was initially written as a special exception for Interstate 69, the so-called “NAFTA Highway, which has been in the works for twenty years. Congressman Blake Farenthold, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced matching bills last spring in their respective houses. Both are Republicans, but the entire Texas delegation supported the measure in lockstep.
Exceptions already existed to the standard Interstate designation. The non-contiguous states and territories of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico all have quasi-Interstates that were funded through the Interstate program despite the fact that they don’t meet the normal design criteria and, more obviously, will never connect to the rest of the system (unless we invade British Columbia and build some very impressive tunnels). But the new rule change is notable in that its reason for being is psychological, not geographical.
In practical terms, the relaxed criteria will allow Texas to erect Interstate 69 signs on about eighty miles of improved highway in the Lower Rio Grand Valley border region, despite the fact that these segments don’t actually connect to other Interstates. This new designation, local officials and businessmen believe, will enhance economic development opportunities, because developers, employers, and freight companies perceive an “Interstate” differently from a U.S. Highway, even if that U.S. Highway is built to Interstate standards.
This “Interstate” branding has been an obsession among the business community in the growing Lower Rio Grande Valley region, which bears the burden of being the largest metropolitan area in the country with no Interstate highway. Back in the mid-1990s, lobbyists for the Interstate 69 coalition (including Tom Delay’s brother Randy) won legislative approval to post “Future Interstate 69 Corridor” signs along U.S. 59, U.S. 281, and U.S. 77, from Texarkana through Houston and down to the Mexican Border.
The Interstate 69 project (about which I wrote a book) is the largest new construction project since the original interstate system, and has not been without controversy. Some states—such as Indiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana—are building Interstate 69 as a greenfield highway through untouched farms and forests. (And for about seven years, when Interstate 69 was part of Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor scheme, Texas was planning to do the same.) But other states—such as Kentucky and Texas—chose to upgrade existing highways to Interstate standards.
This is not the first time the rules have been changed to get Interstate 69 signs up faster. Last fall, the Federal Highway Administration made an exception and designated thirty-eight miles of the Western Kentucky Parkway as I-69, even though the road was not up to Interstate standards. Kentucky State Senator Dorsey Ridley told the Henderson Gleaner that the red white and blue signs held more magic than any actual roadwork could. “This will move economic development in a way people don’t realize,” he said “simply by putting up a shield called I-69.” Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez agreed, saying in a statement that "these improvements will create jobs now and encourage development in the future."
It’s a sign of our times—pardon the pun—that our public servants hope to create jobs by rebranding roadways, and that a reauthorization bill that failed to increase funding for real physical transformations to our infrastructure nevertheless lowered standards to allow more superficial transformations.
Now if we can just get the definition of “High Speed” rail down to 45 mph...
Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.