Texas Population and Traffic

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Credit: Wikipedia

You can see it. You can feel it. You can experience it. Just get on a road many places in Texas. Any day. Almost any time. Bumper to bumper. Parking lot. Delays. Wasted time. Frustration.

Those are words describing what most people living in Texas know firsthand, especially folks in the “Texas Triangle” — the megaregion with Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio as its vertices, including Austin about 80 miles north of San Antonio and 180 miles south of Dallas.

That region is projected to have 35 million residents by 2050—75% of the Texas population. Residents can readily attest to the rapid growth, visibly apparent nearly everywhere.

Recent information published by Wells Fargo Economics Group says that of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, none has grown faster since 2010 on a percentage basis than Austin, whose population is up an astounding 25.5%. Texas dominates the rankings with Houston and San Antonio filling out the top five along with Orlando and Raleigh. Dallas-Fort Worth ranks sixth over this time period, with its population rising a mere 16.9%.

The Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, home to the state capital and the University of Texas, continues to attract a steady stream of business and tech investment as well as large numbers of migrants. Years of red-hot growth have driven housing prices sharply higher and raised concerns over congestion and gentrification.

Higher home prices and increased congestion have pushed growth out into surrounding cities, making Austin suburbs such as Pflugerville, Georgetown, Cedar Park, and San Marcos some of the fastest growing cities in the country.

The 7.5 million Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has 11 counties and numerous cities. In addition to Dallas and Fort Worth, it has four cities between 200,000 and 500,000 residents (Arlington, Garland, Irving, and Plano), and eight more with over 100,000 residents (Carrollton, Denton, Frisco, Grand Prairie, Lewisville, McKinney, Mesquite, and Richardson).

In light of this rapid growth, accompanied by the growing pains cited above, I’m inclined to discourage from doing so anyone considering a move to Texas. Yet I know that attitude is largely selfish, for Terry and I are among the native and longtime residents of our beloved state who wistfully recall the days when living in Austin was much more enjoyable than it is today.

When I think that way I’m reminded of King David’s words in 1 Chron. 29:15: “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

I just hope there’s no traffic in heaven!

One Hundred Year Floods

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Guadalupe River Flood Damage in 1972
Credit: Wikipedia

The Guadalupe River runs 230 miles, from its origin in Kerr County, Texas, to San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. My now sainted mother and father bought and moved into a home at 1480 Sleepy Hollow Dr. on the river in New Braunfels following the 100 year flood of 1972.

That flood ruined the interior of the home but its structure was sound. Mom and Dad spent weekends and summer vacations for several years driving 175 miles from their apartment home in Houston to New Braunfels to restore the home to livable condition.

They made the permanent move to Sleepy Hollow after Dad’s retirement April 17, 1979, and resided there together until he died January 1, 1983. Mom lived there, alone, for nearly 16 more years, enjoying the beautiful white water rapids and huge cypress trees lining the river.

Then came October, 17, 1998, twenty-one years ago today. The Guadalupe River in New Braunfels experienced its second 100 year flood in little more than a quarter of a century. The raging waters of that flood rose eight feet above the roof of Mother’s home. It left a trail of damage, destruction, and putrid silt that covered literally everything in its wake.

Huge bulky items such as automobiles, player pianos, freezers, etc., were washed down the river, some of them never to be seen again. Amazingly, fragile items like drinking glasses and Mother’s prized possessions of about 100 intricately and delicately decorated emu and ostrich eggs were still intact, but buried in black silt. Family, friends, neighbors, and strangers helped recover many such items.

Mom was alerted and evacuated by her insurance agent just before the flood arrived. She took with her the rolls she had made for a church bake sale and her purse, but not much more. Exactly four months later, February 17, 1999, she suffered a minor stroke. By the grace of God it left no major effects.

After a period of homelessness, waiting for payment of flood insurance, and buying a permanent home in a local subdivision, Mom made the decision to demolish her spacious home on the river, which had been damaged beyond repair, and build a summer home in its place.

Shortly after its completion, that home was destroyed by the third so-called 100 year flood. Mom relinquished the remains of that home and sold her irreplaceable lot on the Guadalupe River.

That beautiful body of crystal clear and refreshingly cool water turned into a raging, mean, ruthless, agent of destruction again in 2004, 2010, and 2015. Not all these floods were as disastrous as those of 1972, 1998, and 2002, but still caused significant flooding.

These disasters, like the hurricanes and floods we’ve experienced in Texas and beyond in recent times, are stark reminders of the value of life and the temporary nature of things we own.

Though I thank God for both, life is most certainly of greater value than even the sentimentally and emotionally valuable possessions destroyed in hurricanes and 100 year floods.

Praise God for the precious gift of life!

Evil Grieves the Heart of God

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Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr

Last week brought two more incidents of “domestic terrorism” in Texas and Ohio. Most recent tallies indicate at least 32 dead and more than 50 wounded, all at the hands of two individuals with no apparent motives. Our hearts hurt each time this kind of news arrives.

As usual, pundits, politicians, and other people are quick to decry these dastardly deeds and to offer solutions that might provide a quick fix. Gun control, background checks, psychological or psychiatric help for people who flash signals of mental imbalance or leave a trail of racial hatred or indicate vengeful predisposition are the most frequently suggested remedies.

Each of those suggestions might be somewhat helpful. But none really gets to the heart of the matter. The bottom line is: It’s the heart that matters. “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21 (ESV).

My father used to say that if you believe children are born without original sin, just put two toddlers in the same room, with only one toy, and shut the door.

The biblical quote above was spoken by God after he had sent the great flood, described in Gen. 6-9. It begins like this: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” Gen. 6:5-7

The flood was caused by 40 days and 40 nights of constant, torrential rainfall. After a total of approximately 370 consecutive days on the ark, God created the rainbow as a visible sign of his covenant never again to destroy the earth by the waters of a flood. Gen. 9:8-17

Just before that covenant, “The LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. ’” Gen. 8:21

The bottom line is that nothing anyone does now or in the future will change the evil nature of man’s heart. Steps we take, guns we confiscate, laws we make, restrictions we place, speeches we hear … these and other decisions or actions might be somewhat helpful in minimizing the massive and rapid loss of life that occurs in a mass shooting. We should and must do whatever we can toward that goal.

Yet people with evil hearts will always find ways to do evil deeds. Not even the almost total destruction of mankind in the flood sent by God removed the evil from man’s heart.

So we teach our children and our children’s children that life is a precious gift of God. And we endeavor to teach others that truth as well. That won’t eradicate the evil in man’s heart. And it won’t totally stop mass shootings. But it might go a long way toward curbing the unbridled insanity that happens far too often. For evil still grieves the heart of God. And my heart as well.

That’s a Lot of Concrete!

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Credit: Wikipedia

Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean at California State Route 1 in Santa Monica, California, to I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida. The only longer Interstate Highways are I-80, which runs 2,906 miles from San Francisco to Teaneck, and I-90, which runs 3,085 miles from Seattle to Boston.

In Texas, I-10 runs east from Anthony, a small town near the New Mexico border, through El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston, all the way to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Tex.

At just under 880 miles, the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous non-tolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority. In recent years toll lanes have been added on portions of the highway west of Houston, yet it is still possible to travel the entire length of I-10 with no toll.

I-10 is also the longest stretch of highway with a single designation within a single state. Mile marker 880 and its corresponding exit number in Orange, Texas, are the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in North America.

After widening was completed in 2008, a portion of the highway west of Houston is now also believed to be the widest in the world, at 26 lanes. There is a wider section in China on the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway, but that section is a toll plaza approach.

More than one-third of I-10’s entire length is located in Texas alone. El Paso, near the Texas–New Mexico state line, is 785 miles from the western terminus of I-10 in Santa Monica, California. That makes El Paso closer to Los Angeles than it is to Orange, Tex., 857 miles away at the Texas–Louisiana state line. Likewise, Orange is only 789 miles from the eastern terminus of I-10 in Jacksonville, Florida.

That’s a lot of concrete!

Travel on the Interstate Highway system, notwithstanding the frequent bottlenecks and pileups those of us who live in major cities along that system regularly experience, allows those who drive it to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time.

Compare that reality with the time and effort it took biblical characters like Abraham to travel from his point of origination, Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq), to God’s chosen destination of Shechem in Canaan, known today as the Holy Land. Only several hundred miles as the crow flies but more than 1,000 miles along the route taken to avoid the Sahara Desert. Not much concrete on that journey. Only lots of faith in the God who was leading him.