I would like to say "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore", but that would sound corny, even though it's an accurate quote from The Wizard of Oz. Our tri-city community is gone forever, being replaced by an ever-emerging agglomeration of new businesses, storage units, trailer parks, apartments, and even a few new houses. We've lost that loving feeling of a small community and driving west on I-10 from Beaumont, you enter the city of Baytown and don't stop seeing what is essentially Houston until you pop out on the other side of Katy, 60 miles later.
We are being swallowed up by the expansion of Houston, as the metropolis has ran out of room north, west, and south. Mayor DonCarlos (who I have voted for at least 6 times) told us that we should plan for a quarter of a million people over the next five years or so. If you remember, I predicted a growth of 200,000 a few years ago and a couple of the local righteous curmudgeons basically called me a dreamer and a prognosticator of fake news. If my rememberer is working correctly, they both claimed there was no way Hillary could lose the election.
Well, here's a hard cold fact and maybe you've heard of it or not. Up SH-146 before you get to Dayton and almost directly across the road from the large white rice elevator, they are going to build 14,000 homes. It will be a city in size with police, fire department and a proliferation of support businesses. It is also asserted, but unconfirmed that there will be a major airport built close-by. I'm not talking a Gum Island expansion either, but a major airline investment. More on that as it progresses.
I was at the VA Medical Center the other day and my PA was telling me about her daily commute from Manvel and how it has become a traffic jam. Well, hello! The entire Houston area has become worse than Garth road at lunch time. Fixing Garth Road will be temporary at best, as more people flood to the area. The only salvation we have is more roads. SH-146 out past Pinehurst will only be remedied when they build an elevated road from the trestle to Maranatha Temple with flyovers for I-10 east and west.
Only driverless cars, trucks and mass transit will make our roads safer when all the stop lights are removed and there is no longer a need for car insurance. Everything will be scheduled and you will get where you are going when it is time to go. What about leisure driving you ask? Maybe you will be able to push a button to take the scenic route. What scenic route? There's nothing scenic left and out in the country is, well, it's a long ways off.
I remember 25 years ago when people left Baytown to live out in the country. They chose The Woodlands. Then everyone wanted to really get out there and they moved to League City, Pearland, and Katy. Seriously? The other day we were at Red Lobster and I drove over to Ward Road and it took almost a half an hour and like Rain Man, I'm an excellent driver.
I tend to get around the entire Houston area either geocaching or visiting the gyms I cover and about the only locale that still has that hometown feel is... La Porte. The east side specifically and I find the slower pace there very refreshing. During the weekday there is almost no traffic, as folks who live there are either retired, working, or sleeping due to shift work - and there are deer over there in the woods near Wharton Weems Boulevard.
Am I being critical of Baytown or its planners? No, I don't mean to sound like I am. It is what it is and Houston has to grow somewhere. What I am suggesting is we be very careful how we go about accommodating all these new people and businesses. It is far too late to be anything approximating a planned community, but we can be smart about what we allow to be built. I've heard the question raised one time too many of just how many storage units, donut shops, cookie-cutter apartment complexes, and taquerias do we need and yet these very establishments are under construction right now.
It is also extremely important to maintain green spaces and enforce landscaping rules. Expanding the court-driven community service to do more and longer litter abatement punishment would be a positive and encouraging more community efforts toward improving our image would be wonderful. We can indeed take our tri-city area and make it not only better looking, but a draw for quality newcomers by progressive planning.
Like it or not, we are now a major city. Stop griping about Garth Road because we have more Garth Roads coming and Kansas is gone forever.