Category Archives: Travel

Grapevine moves forward with I-635/SH 121 interchange project, restricts parking on 2 streets in downtown Grapevine

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A new SH 121 interchange at FM 2499 will be constructed as part of the upcoming $370 million DFW Connector project. (Photo by Brian Pardue/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Grapevine City Council met briefly Oct. 2 to approve a contract with NorthGate Constructors to relocate utilities for an upcoming transportation project and to restrict parking along two streets in downtown Grapevine.

With the expectation that SH 121 traffic near Grapevine Mills will nearly double by 2025, work began this summer to relieve bottlenecks that commonly occur along a three-mile strip of the roadway.

The $370 million Texas Department of Transportation project includes rebuilding and widening SH 121 north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to accommodate new interchanges at I-635 and FM 2499.

Read more from Community Impact…

North White Chapel Boulevard bridge in Southlake to remain closed until further notice; sustained severe damage from storm

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The bridge at North White Chapel Boulevard and Kirkwood Branch in Southlake is still closed after it sustained severe damage from heavy rains the weekend of Sept. 21-23.

To make repairs and reopen the structure would cost $200,000-$400,000, and the project could last two to four months, Public Works Director Robert Cohen said. Staff has not determined an accurate cost to replace the bridge altogether; however, a rough estimate projects it could total $10 million.

Read more from Community Impact…

Northbound SH 121 frontage road at Bass Pro Drive to fully close this weekend in Grapevine

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At 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5 the northbound SH 121 frontage road at Bass Pro Drive will shut down for utility work as crews continue construction on the I-635/SH 121 interchange expansion. The road will remain closed until 6 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8.

The $370 million Texas Department of Transportation project includes rebuilding and widening SH 121 north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to accommodate new interchanges for SH 121 at I-635 and FM 2499.

Read more from Community Impact…

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This map shows the detour suggested for the closure of northbound SH 121 frontage road at Bass Pro Drive. (Courtesy DFW Connector)

You Can Take a Scenic Train Ride Across the U.S. for $213

BY SARAH VRBA

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 10.40.16 AM.pngHave you ever wanted to take a scenic train ride from one side of the U.S. to the other? Now you can do it for a bargain.

The United States definitely packs a punch when it comes to spectacular scenery. The western states of California, Utah, and Colorado alone boast the Rockies, Salt Lake and the San Francisco Bay. Blogger Derek Low decided to take in all that majestic beauty by traveling from San Francisco to New York by train. And he did it for only a few hundred dollars.

Read more from Wide Open Country…

Volkswagen Wants to Move One Million Electric Vehicles Annually by 2025

By James Gilboy

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© Andrew Trahan

Volkswagen reportedly aims to sell one million electric vehicles per year by 2025.

Its first step will be to sell 150,000 electric vehicles worldwide in 2020 on its upswing toward a million annually by 2025, as reported by CNET. This rapid growth will supposedly be accomplished using a new electric vehicle-only platform, which Volkswagen calls “MEB.”

MEB is a modular electric vehicle platform designed by Volkswagen, its name a German acronym for what translates as “modular electric toolkit.”

Read more from MSN…

Hello, Media? There’s a Train Coming…

By Chris Daigle

For some reason, the big players in Houston and Texas media continue to ignore one of the biggest news stories of our day. Maybe they’re too focused on a certain judge in Washington, or posting photo galleries of the best neighborhoods to live in or best restaurants to eat at, and can’t find the time. In the process, corporate-owned media in Texas are missing an opportunity to do their real jobs as watchdogs for the rest of us.

You’ve probably heard about the purported high speed train that will one day in the far, far future connect the booming economies of Houston and Dallas. You’ve seen snippets of smiling politicians lauding the innovative (yep, that’s the word for everything now) technology of modern trains, and you’ve seen public relations pieces boasting of a new board chairman or a new CEO joining the team of Texas Central Railroad (TCR) to forever change the way we travel in Texas.

What you aren’t reading anywhere is an in-depth analytical look at the feasibility of this project, the money that surrounds it, the public endearment that it is certainly not capturing, and the way a high speed train will factor into transportation a decade from now. For the life of me, I can’t understand why big media outlets haven’t jumped on the opportunity to do some real, if difficult, work.

The latest news about Texas Central Partners and its “bullet train” was quietly released last week in the Dallas Morning News: “Texas Central Partners has secured a $300 million loan to continue its pursuit of a new 240-mile high speed rail route from Houston to Dallas. The company said it will use the financing to move ahead on permitting, design, and engineering on what would be the first high speed rail in Texas.” The loan is a tiny percentage, they say, of the total $15 billion project overall cost. Others estimate it will cost closer to $20 billion.

For anyone who has followed the slow drip of news on this project since its 2015 announcement, the $300 million loan should serve as sticker shock to the general public. The reason? The interest bearing loan comes from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development. Say that real fast at a party, and nobody goes home drunk.

Good on the Dallas Morning News for at least reporting about the loan (I could find nothing in the Houston Chronicle lately). But if you know the background of this project, and the promises made by Texas Central Railroad, we should all raise an eyebrow.

TCR has constantly told us they have local investments worth enough to get the project to the construction phase. To a bum like me, I took that to mean they would get through all the studies and permitting, and consulting work needed to start laying the first columns of concrete.

I read through the tea leaves, whatever those are, and discovered that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, they needed $300 million additional, and somehow can’t find the complete funding locally (in America) to continue the project without the help of two Japanese banks. To answer your upcoming question, Texas Central Railroad plans to use Japanese technology – not compatible with high speed rails across the rest of the world – to build this new rail system. No wonder our friends from the Far East have ponied up the dollars to get the project through the U.S. government’s approval process.

Interestingly, news of this loan brought one of the larger opponents of the project out of public hiding last week. A company called SNCF America, the Maryland based arm of the French National railway company which is based in Paris, France (not Paris, Texas). They jumped on news of the Japanese bank loan.

Scott Dunaway, a spokesman for SNCF America, said, “Texas Central Partners comes clean on its empty promise of private funding led by Texas investors. Now Japanese taxpayer funds are being loaned to finance the planned Texas to Houston rail. Two Japanese government agencies are supporting an attempt to corner the market with technology that lacks interoperability (won’t match other rail systems anywhere) and creates a monopoly on the future of Texas high speed rail.”

I tried to contact Dunaway directly to get more information on his company’s concerns. As the spokesman for the company, I thought he seemed a logical place to start. I was told Dunaway the Spokesman, “Isn’t conducting interviews, but talk to SNCF America’s President and CEO, Alain Leray. I thought that would be great, but Leray works in Paris, and he was counting sheep when I needed an interview.

My point is, SNCF probably has as much to lose (or gain) from what happens to this TCR bullet train as any other company in the world, so you have to be careful using their information to form educated opinions on the project.

That gets me back to where we started. Where are our major media players when we need them most? Sorry, but this reporter is a one-man show. Ne team of investigative reporters here, so the best thing to do is sound the alarm.

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Northwest Mall: New rail depot for shoppers, or an architect’s next bold vision in glass and steel? We’re still waiting. (Photo: Chris Daigle)

So I will ask the pressing questions to help our brethren in the big media to look this way. Is there any possible way this project is going to happen? Hopefully not, say the legions of landowners whose lives and property will be disrupted by this ongoing drama. A few months ago, it was announced that Northwest Mall, standing proud across the highway from the tracks since 1967, would be the Houston stop for the bullet train. Does that mean a dash to Palais Royal for shoes and shirts before heading to Dallas? Does that mean no more mall, and the lot stays barren for a decade while we wait for construction? Estimates for completion are for 2024, but delays in starting mean delays in finishing.

Has anyone bothered to think about the future of transportation around this concept of high speed rail? For instance, TCR says you won’t sweat the drive to Dallas anymore. Just watch a movie or get some work done on the 90-minute run in comfort. But aren’t there self driving cars that accomplish the same thing coming right up? Has anyone taken a look at the California high speed train project? It’s a catastrophe, and getting worse. We should be paying attention.

With me being in Houston, and the Grapevine Source being near Dallas, this seems like a seamless solution to get to the office one day. But if the parent company already needs foreign money just to complete the studies, is it really that great of an idea?

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Chris Daigle is a Houston historian, photojournalist and a regular contributor to The Grapevine Source. To read more of his articles, click HERE.

  

Transit agency board of directors votes to remove Coit, Preston Road rail stations from future Cotton Belt line

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DSC02136-1-2The DART board of directors voted Tuesday to amend the Cotton Belt service plan to delete two stations, one which was planned to be constructed on Coit Road and another on Preston Road.

Dallas City Council members have pushed in recent months for the removal of the stations, which would have fallen within Dallas city limits.

“Dallas does not want a station [at Coit],” Dallas City Council Member Sandy Greyson said at a March 27 DART board meeting. “So why is it on your plan? Apparently because Plano and Richardson want a station on Coit. But Dallas doesn’t tell Plano or Richardson where to put stations in their cities, and we would expect the same courtesy in return.”

Read more from Community Impact…

DPS Increases Traffic Enforcement for Labor Day Holiday

NEWS RELEASE

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will be joining law enforcement efforts from across the state to increase traffic enforcement during the Labor Day holiday weekend. From Friday, Aug. 31, through Monday, Sept. 3, DPS Troopers will be looking for drivers who violate traffic laws, including impaired drivers, speeders and safety belt violators.

“DPS is committed to protecting travelers on our roadways, and Troopers will be working around-the-clock this Labor Day weekend to keep impaired and dangerous drivers off the road,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “We are urging all drivers to do their part to keep our roads safe by simply obeying Texas traffic laws and driving courteously.”

DPS offers drivers the following tips for enhancing safety on our roads during the Labor Day holiday:

  • Do not drink and drive. Make alternate travel plans if you are consuming alcohol.
  • Slow down – especially in bad weather, construction areas, heavy traffic and unfamiliar areas.
  • Eliminate distractions while driving, including the use of mobile devices. Texas law prohibits using a portable wireless device to read, write or send an electronic message unless the vehicle is stopped.
  • Buckle up everyone in the vehicle – it’s the law.
  • Slow down or move over for police, fire, EMS and Texas Department of Transportation vehicles and tow trucks stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated – it’s the law. Also, show the same courtesy to fellow drivers stopped along the road.
  • Drive defensively, as holiday travel may present additional challenges.
  • Don’t drive fatigued – allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • If you see a road hazard or if you observe anything suspicious, report it to the nearest law enforcement agency.
  • Before your trip begins, make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and always double check to make sure all cargo is secure.
  • Monitor weather and road conditions wherever you are traveling. For road conditions/closings in Texas, visit https://drivetexas.org.

As part of Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), police agencies across the country will also increase enforcement efforts over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Southwest Airlines to allow miniature horses as service animals in new policy

By: FOX 10 Staff

Southwest Airlines Finds Five Planes In Its 737 Fleet In Need Of Repair

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

PHOENIX (KSAZ) — Come September 17, people will be able to carry miniature horses onboard Southwest flights as trained service animals, according to airline officials.

Officials announced the policy change, via a statement on its website on Tuesday. In the statement, officials name miniature horses, along with dogs and cats, as some of the most common service animals that will be accepted onboard. Passengers, however, will need to be able to provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal

Read more from FOX4…

UPDATED: Army Corps of Engineers: Fairway Drive closed for the rest of the year due to a slide at Grapevine Lake Dam

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Beginning Aug. 13, Fairway Drive will be closed to public traffic for the remainder of the year, according to Flower Mound officials. Only authorized persons and vehicles will have access to accomplish Army Corps of Engineers missions.

The Corps is in the initial process of repairing a shallow slide at Grapevine Lake Dam. As a part of this forthcoming repair, the Corps had intended to close the road during the construction phase only.

Read more from Community Impact…