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^stx:MOA’MW.. Mollie Parsley at the Railyard DARVYN SPAGNOLLY Highway for the Hub BY DARVYN SPAGNOLLY Lubbock BACK IN THE 1960S, the traffic planners of Lubbocka city that is a living paean to the rigid, right-angled urban gridgoaded by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, enshrined two great ambitions: to construct a highway going up way going from right to left. They got their wish for the up-down freeway last year with Interstate 27. In the intervening decades, however, Lubbock’s professional class had removed itself to the suburban sprawl of southwest Lubbock and left Lubbock Proper, where the two freeways would meet, to die a quiet, protracted death, its poorer ethnic neighborhoods slashed through with high-speed roadways and its business life nearly extinct. Now, from the perspective of a rural road outside of Lubbock, near her family farm, Mollie Parsley surveys the Lubbock of today from her car window and can say, “Look at the skyline !”Her brother, Herschel Vernon Newman Jr. rejoins, “Use your imagination.” Although “The Hub of the Plains” might not look urban, it has drugs, gangs and bigcity amounts of money to throw around on civic projects. This is, after all, the city that dug Lake Alan B. Henry, named for a former mayor, as a public recreation area before realizing that it hadn’t bought the rights to the water needed to fill it. Parsley, a woman who previously spent her life helping out her husband in a bus-rental business and attending PTA meetings, has discovered something that has provided her with a new mission. She’s discovered that Lubbock is dealing with its share of the enormous amount of money Texas shovels yearly into the construction of highways \(in 1994 alone, Texas spent $1.5 billion on you might figure a small town with its fingers in a pie that big might be tempted to act. She’s discovered that Lubbock planned to pay $16 million to move a $1-million rail line in order to build that right-to-left highway, along U.S. 82, that Lubbock has been dreaming of but might not need. Her mission is to expose what the city is poised to do. The rail line, the Seagraves, Whiteface Darvyn Spagnolly is a freelance writer working on his master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri. and . Lubbock, has lost its corporate privileges, was delinquent in property taxes and had numerous safety violations, but Lubbock has committed itself to paying for a replacement right-of-way, planning and installing new tracks, and providing a new railyard. Parsley is motivated by her sense of outrage, but she is also guided to a certain extent by the old-fashioned sense of self-interest. The new railroad is going to go straight through her family farm. But the interests of the minorities who disproportionately inhabit many of Lubbock’s central neighborhoods, who have seen their communities sundered by freeway and road improvement projects, are the biggest possible casualty of Highway 82, the future John W. Montford Freeway. MOST OF THE VITALITY that can be found in central Lubbock these days is The Ranching Heritage Center, a collection of old prairie buildings and windmills lost in a wilderness of decaying post-war housing and sterile strip construction. The central business district is a museum of a different kind, its stately old business buildings neglected, its streets empty at midday. While downtown Lubbock has . stagnated, however, southwestern Lubbock has exploded into subur ban sprawl. Or, as Davis Melton, environmental coordinator for the Highway 82 project at the Texas Department of Transportation office in Lubbock, puts it, “In the past 30 years, the city of Lubbock has almost picked up and moved to the southwest.” The suburbs are the focus for growth in Lubbock. Property values and personal incomes are high, the Dillards stores are there, and there is, as the TXDOT’ s Envigreat deal of developable property along the corridor of the planned new freeway. Lubbock has followed its general plan drawn up in the 1960s without much in the way of reality checks. No one at the Department of Transportation has quantified how severe a Lubbock traffic jam is. The only measurements taken on Highway 82 were total daily numbers of passing cars, from which peak-traffic numbers are derived by means of a formula. Experts not associated with TxDoT have remarked that a Lubbock traffic jam lasts for about 15 minutes. To build this new freeway, the state and the city of Lubbock agreed to build eight miles of controlled-access freeway along the route of U.S. 82 connecting 1-27 with Lubbock’s expanding suburbs. TxDoT decided to relocate the railroad, whose tracks lie along the projected route. To this end, in 1991 the city granted the railroad title to a new right-of-way between the western edge of urban Loop Highway 289 and Reeves Air Force Base, further west. The project is expected to cost $265 million, of which $80 million is budgeted for right-of-way preparation. The state will reimburse the city 90 percent of the cost of right-of-way, including the railroad relocation. \(Lubbock voters in 1987 approved a $13.3 million bond issue to pay for the freeway right-of-way and other street improvemoving the railway are worth the extra millions. Mel Pope, a retired design engineer with TxDoT who previously headed the project, says, “The interchanges are so much better without the railroad in place. I think that has been one of the largest factors.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7