We are really in for it. “It” being what Baytown is to become in our near future.
I think its time to remind folks that this sleepy little tri-settlement is no more. Back in 1974 when I made Baytown my home, a person could exit the tunnel on this side of the ship channel and not see a single light until the Holiday Inn close to Texas Avenue came into sight. Not a single light bulb was burning, because it was out in the country.
In this same area, there will soon be a flyover heading onto Highway 99 and a second bridge over Cedar Bayou. Below the second bridge will be a large barge terminal that no one here wanted. Thank you Sammy Mahan for setting me straight on this. I saw it as jobs for Baytownians and not as something that would lower the standard of those who live nearby.
My answer then (after attempts failed to stop the building of the terminal) was to hold the city’s feet to the fire to force environmental, sound-abatement, and aesthetic concessions.
I was against banning of cigarette smoking inside bars and food establishments after they were forced to put in mega-expensive ventilation systems to accommodate non-smokers. I was against removing the red light cameras and still am, but other than getting a laugh out of smoking out the Madalyn Murray O’Hair of red light cameras, I accepted it.
The next big thing I didn’t vote for was the expansion of the Blue Heron Parkway. I felt like my fellow citizens let us local folks down by voting for a useless road through our woods, just so people could drive to Sjolander Road. What? “Why would anyone want a shortcut there”, was my reasoning.
Turns out it was a lot of people, me included. I was wrong – but, I hounded my councilman and the city to do the very thing I suggested they do with the barge terminal - force environmental, sound-abatement, and aesthetic concessions. No luck on sound abatement, but wow! It is beautiful and with the hike and bike trails and the awesome-looking detention/retention pond, it is a real eye pleaser.
We planted 55 trees and will probably plant 55 more when the money becomes available and the trails and road are heavily used. So it turns out this giant negative was actually a positive. Now I can’t say that the barge terminal will be a positive, but don’t give up on making it appear and sound acceptable. Just don’t stop forcing those concessions.
When it comes to making our city leaders accountable, there is no such thing as beating a dead horse. It’s been my personal experience that they listen. I have had a fantastic response from our city officials and basically because they know I actually care about Baytown. I even got a high-five from T-Bone Schaffer when I was involved in the Baytown Concerned Citizen’s movement and to me, that was something special.
This brings us to the present serious issue of the planned Transportation Center beside Gentry Junior School. Seeing emissions are a very big part of the complaint, a simple exhaust header could be erected behind the many parked buses with flexible hoses. When a bus is parked and before it is started, the hose could be attached to the tail pipe and while the bus is idling, the vapors are ran through a scrubber. This is very common in all the chemical plants and allows almost zero emissions to go to the atmosphere.
When the bus is ready to leave, they simply drive away and the hose automatically disconnects, closing itself off. At present, every bus at Stallworth Stadium discharges exhaust to the atmosphere, so this would be an ecological improvement.
Next is noise and light abatement and with proper landscaping and noise reducing vegetation and sound absorbing panels, this could be properly negated. The vacant view across that field being viewed as pristine is somewhat a mystery to me, but maybe to the locals it is beautiful.
The main point of this column isn’t that we should build the Transportation Center on Archer Road, but that the city is growing and there will be terrible concessions to many people who still believe they are living in the country. They are not. Little Pelly-Baytown-Goose Creek is no more. We are the biggest thing east of Houston and God help us if they ever try to absorb us.
I predict that one of the next projects will be to four-lane Sjolander Road all the way to I-10 and widen Archer all the way to Garth or further. We will see many more Hunt roads cutting across fields with many more people displaced. Twenty years ago I heard this was going to happen and now it is. There ain’t no more “country” in Baytown and the sooner we accept that, the quicker we can start holding the city’s feet to the fire to make the improvements appealing and most importantly, safe for residents.