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Showing posts from October, 2009

Texas Vacation - San Antonio

The last full day in Texas was spent in San Antonio. Out first stop was Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery where Maggie's grandfather is buried. It's amazing how tranquil a location it is amidst all the base activity that surrounds it. Over 120,000 lay in eternal rest there. It is an extremely powerful site.

For the entire set from San Antonio (nearly 100 photos), go here.

From there it was into downtown San Antonio. We arrived just prior to 11, so we were unable to check in though we did leave our car at the hotel. Obviously, the first stop in San Antonio is always The Alamo. It is correct that the building itself isn't as massive as you'd think, but take the time to walk the grounds and taken in the exhibits and you'll really begin to understand how the siege and battle at The Alamo is the powerful symbol for all of Texas as it still is today.



To first time visitor's, the smaller skyline of San Antonio maybe come as a surprise. But when you take a clo…

Landslide closes I-40 in Haywood County, NC

Some big news this week as a rock slide at Interstate 40 just inside North Carolina near the Tennessee line has closed the highway indefinitely.

The rock side occurred at around 2 am on Sunday, October 25th. Two vehicles and an 18 wheeler were damaged as a result but fortunately no major injuries or fatalities were reported.

Story:Rock slide forces closure of I-40 in Haywood County --WSPA

NCDOT immediately issued a detour for Interstate traffic. The official detour is:

Motorists traveling on I-40 West are advised to take I-240 West, Exit 53B. Follow I-240 West to Exit 4A, I-26 West. Follow I-26 West (a North Carolina Scenic Highway) to I-81 South. Take I-81 South and follow back to I-40, Mile Marker 421, in Tennessee. This route is 53 miles longer than I-40.

Those coming from Tennessee into North Carolina are advised to follow the same route but in reverse.

Another alternative for travelers to/from Winston-Salem, NC and points East.

From Winston-Salem. Take US 52 North to I-74 West (To I…

Texas Road Trip Day 4 - Exploring the Hill Country

Wedenesday in Texas was a full day - as Maggie and I covered a lot of ground. We hit Johnson City, the LBJ Ranch, Luckenbach, and Enchanted Rock. You can pretty much see all in one day...obviously the amount of daylight can allow you to see more in late spring or summer.

So it was west again on US 290 towards Johnson City. (Photos from that part of the trip can be found here.) Just outside the community of Henly was this old abandoned general store that appears to have done just a little bit of everything in its day - General Store, Feed Store, Gas and Service Station, and sold used cars.



Johnson City isn't entirely that big. It is the childhood home of LBJ; however, the 'Johnson' is not derived from him or his family. It's a typical rural Texas small town - though the most unique thing about it is an old feed mill that has turned into an artist colony and includes a restaurant.



From there it was Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site and also State Park. (…

Mineral County, WV supports US 220 North/South Corridor

The Mineral County Development Authority has voiced their support for the US 220 North/South Corridor Improvements. The US 220 North/South Corridor project would upgrade US 220 to a four lane divided highway from I-68 in Cumberland, MD to Corridor H in Moorefield, WV.

With in a year, the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study will be completed at a cost of $2 million. Proponents for the project will push for a Tier 2 EIS once that study is completed.

The MCDA is one of a number of governmental agencies in three states to support the North/South Corridor. They include Allegany County (MD) Commission and Allegany County Planning Agency, Somerset County (PA) Commission, and Mineral County (WV) Commission.

Story: MCDA agrees to support N/S highway project --Mineral Daily News-Tribune

Currituck Commissioners formally oppose two Mid-Currituck Bridge proposals

This doesn't come as a surprise after Currituck Commissioner Barry Nelms' objections were voiced at a recent NCTA Public Hearing. The formal resolution from the Currituck County Commissioners states that they are against the 'Option B' toll booth plan - that would in their minds significantly impact the quality of life in Aydlett.

In addition, the resolution also objects to the placement of a barrier wall at Waterlily Road and US 158. The construction of the wall would force travelers from Church's Island wishing to go south on US 158 from Waterlily Road to first go on US 158 North, cross the Coinjock Bridge, and then do a U turn onto US 158 South. Something the commissioners see as hazardous.

The entire formal resolution can be viewed here.

Texas Road Trip Day 3 - Pedernales Falls State Park

Tuesday morning and the rain that overcast and dreary skies continued as we headed from Lindale, Texas to Austin. The trip was pretty straightforward Texas 155 to US 79 to Round Rock and then down I-35 into Austin.

More photos from the trip to Austin can be found here.

What was the worst thing about the off and on drizzle and sometimes a nice heavy shower was I wasn't able to take photos of the surprisingly rolling (at least to me) East Texas landscape. Obviously with all the rain they've had, it was quite green. However, we did stop at a few small towns - the first being Buffalo - which is on US 79 just east of I-45.



There really isn't much to Buffalo; however, they were in the fall spirit. The very small downtown featured a few scarecrows including this one which was meant to be Dolly Parton.



Further down, US 79 is the town of Franklin, TX. Franklin is slightly bigger than Buffalo and is the County Seat of Robertson County. It has a rather nice courthouse but it st…

NCTA continues to look at tolling I-140/US 17 to pay for Cape Fear Skyway

The NCTA is looking at the possibility of tolling part of or all of the US 17/I-140 Wilmington Bypass as a way of generating additional funds for the Cape Fear Skyway.

Currently, the projected revenue from the 9.5 mile toll road would only pay for half the cost of the $1.0 - $1.5 billion project. As a result, that would require a minimum of $49.2 million per year gap funding paid for out of North Carolina's general budget for 40 years.

Tolling the entire bypass (when completed) could possibly reduce the gap funding at an $11 million per year rate. In fact, the NCTA estimates that in a 40 year period tolls on the Wilmington Bypass would generate more revenue than the Skyway. $2.4 billion over 40 years compared to $1.5 billion over 40 years for the Skyway.

Of course, because the Wilmington Bypass has been funded with federal tax dollars, it would need to get approval from not only the state legislature (which has to approve all toll projects) but from the federal government as well.

Want more toll roads? - NCTA begins planning stage for Southern Wake Expressway

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority is just entering the planning stages for the last 30 miles of the Raleigh Outer Loop (NC 540/I-540). The last 30 miles consists of 'two' freeways - the Southern Wake Expressway and the Eastern Wake Expressway.

Story in the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Southern Wake would run from NC 55 in Holly Springs eastwards to I-40 in Garner (most likely near or at where the US 70 Clayton Bypass begins). The Eastern Wake runs from I-40 in Garner northwards to where I-540 currently ends at US 264 in Knightdale.

Don't worry - there's a lot to be done - any decision on what parts of the road to build first, how and where it will end up going won't be decided until 2011.

Currently, the highway is in the planning stages and the NCTA is looking at it as a possible future toll road project. The NCTA will need to decide if it is a viable toll road, in addition to getting approval to toll the highway from the state legislature.

There has been no …

Virginia group appeals I-73 decision

In what may be another setback for Interstate 73 in Virginia, Virginians for Appropriate Roads (VAR) has filed an appeal of an August decision by U.S. District Court Judge James C. Turk. The motion was filed to the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

VAR, who has been fighting I-73 since 1994, originally sued claiming that the Virginia Department of Transportation did not adequately consider safety improvements to the existing US 220. In their opinion, making improvements to US 220 is the best possible solution.

VDOT has argued that when Congress legislated the construction of I-73 in 1991 that it was Congress' intent that a new alignment for I-73 would be the best means for safer and faster transportation in the area. They also argue that upgrading US 220 would not make the needed transportation improvements that a new I-73 would.

Turk's decision stated that VDOT did all that was necessary required by Federal Law in studying the route.

Ann Rogers, who is a spokeswoman for VAR, co…

NCTA unveils 'Option B' for Mid-Currituck Bridge

Remember a few months ago, when I blogged about that the NCTA was studying a possible new option for the Mid-Currituck Bridge that would save $60 million in cost?

Well, this past week the NCTA unveiled those plans as 'Option B'. Needless to say, some residents were not enthused with 'Option B'.

As previously mentioned part of Option B would consist of a new location for the tollbooth. The other part of Option B, and the part that left a strong distaste in the mouth of Currituck County Commissioner Barry Nelms, is to relocate and eliminate most Aydlett Road.

The toll booths and Aydlett Road are on the mainland side of the bridge.

Aydlett Road traffic would be moved onto the new road.

Part of the reasoning for the new option are environmental concerns, specifically Maple Swamp. According to NCTA Engineer Jennifer Harris, "Aydlett Road is essentially a dam in between two parts of Maple Swamp — it keeps the swamp from being a continuous natural feature."

Commiss…

Cape Fear Skyway at a crossroads

The proposed Cape Fear Skyway is at a crossroads as elected leaders in both Brunswick and New Hanover Counties debate on which is their preferred choice for the highway and bridge.

At a recent meeting between the North Carolina Turnpike Authority and the Wilmington Area Transportation Advisory Committee, various leaders voiced their opinions on what route the proposed toll road should follow.

Brunswick County Commissioner Bill Sue prefers a more northern route that avoids the Snee Farm and Stoney Creek communities. He views the northern route as the first proposal that avoids "...really high-priced land that represents some potentially good tax base."

However, the northern route doesn't sit well with the mayor of Leland, Walter Futch. The proposed northern route would cut through the heart of his town.

“It separates our town,” he said.

Futch would like to state to spend some of that money on widening US 74/76 through town and to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.

Options for whe…

2009 Fall Vacation - Trip to Texas - Day 2 - Photos from Arkansas

The first day of vacation was driving out to Jackson, TN from Raleigh. A little over 10 hours - a nice easy drive.

The second day was the first day of exploration as we traveled from Jackson, TN to Lindale, TX. To break up the trip, we made two stops - the first was to do some hiking at Village Creek State Park in Arkansas the second was to visit the Bill Clinton Birthplace and Museum in Hope, AR.

The day was marred with low overcast skies, an off and on drizzle, a damp humid feeling. It didn't stop us from enjoying the day - but it sure was frustrating.

Village Creek State Park - Entire flickr photo set go here.

We exited off I-40 near Forest City and headed north about 15 miles to Village Creek State Park. The main reason was to break up the trip and since for the most part we were driving through Arkansas - have a chance to at least say that we've spent time there.

Village Creek is a popular Eastern Arkansas park - it is home to an Andy Dye Golf Course, there are a number of…