October 16, 2019 830 PM
For well past a year TXDOT has been studying the highway running the length from Ft. Stockton through Alpine and Marfa to Presidio.
Like you, I attended most public meetings held by TXDOT and, at every meeting I asked, “Is this an attempt to restart ‘La Entrada?’” “Is this about running freight trucks through Alpine?” “Is this about building a bypass around this area?” And the answer was always, “No. No. And no.” “It’s about public safety and improving the driving experience for people traveling through our area.” To illustrate, TXDOT would point to those “Next Passing Lane in Two Miles” signs along the highway from Alpine to Ft. Stockton as an example of their study’s work in reducing unsafe driving.
When TXDOT sponsored a bus trip to Presidio, I signed up. Along our drive, TXDOT described their plans to widen the roads we traveled on and, possibly, build a second road or bridge into Presidio to alleviate regular traffic jams resulting from congestion at the border crossing during holidays. I was shocked that traffic could be blocked all the way to the highway leading into Presidio for hours on end!
At a community center there we met folks from other towns, interested groups, and businesses that might be affected by TXDOT’s safety study. We were organized according to our city or group and asked to brainstorm on what priorities we wanted the study to focus on. Quickly, it became obvious all the towns agreed on safer driving conditions, wider streets, etc. The Border Patrol had their own concerns, understandably.
I supported everything I heard at that meeting, from easing congestion to new signage to wider roads and I thought it was, overall, a productive meeting up until there was a sudden and huge ruckus from one table. It was so involved that the commotion brought conversation in the center to a standstill and, at one point, a TXDOT official had to take to the microphone to remind everyone that “bypass” was not part of the discussion.
I later found out on the way back to Marfa that at that table was seated either the owner or managers from the company building those prefab houses you see transported on the highway and their associated business partners. They were demanding that TXDOT raise the height and widen the width of the train truss or “bridge” that gateways the road into Alpine, if you’re coming from Marfa, so they can drive their prefabs straight through Alpine instead of having to bypass up to Ft. Davis, come down to Alpine, drive along Loop Rd., and then on to Ft. Stockton. And, if TXDOT wouldn’t do that, then build a bypass around Alpine to connect directly with the highway leading to Ft. Stockton. Either way, they wanted to start driving up to sixteen prefabs a day through Alpine instead of the four to six they were limited to by the “Ft. Davis” route.
TXDOT told us on the bus this would never happen because the truss was railroad property, the railroad had no interest in spending any money on it and, besides, this study had nothing to do with that or looking into any bypass.
Two weeks ago, I attended a TXDOT meeting in Alpine. I was about an hour late getting there, but there was a good hour left. I sat down at one of the many round tables attendees were sitting at and looked forward to hearing an update on the results of TXDOT’s safety study.
On the table was a map of our area. The route from Presidio through Marfa and Alpine and on up to Ft. Stockton was highlighted in green and, in the map legend, this route was named the “Main Freight Generator.” Everything was about “freight trucks, freight traffic, freight routes.” There was nothing about the public safety and safer highway driving that I participated in for more than a year. In fact, there was even a guy there representing San Angelo and their interest in turning highway 67 into a “San Angelo corridor” leading through Alpine.
The conversation underway when I sat down
was, “what to do if a tanker truck got stuck under the railroad truss and leaked hazardous waste. How do we get emergency crews in and possibly evacuate Alpine?”
As I recalled, the only two potentially hazardous accidents we had involved the railroad and an overturned tanker car; once leading into Alpine coming from the Y and another years ago in Sunny Glenn. We’ve never had any problems with any trucks carrying potentially hazardous material and I had a hard time picturing a tanker truck wide enough or tall enough to get stuck under the train truss.
However, listening to this, I was reminded that I heard something similar. Though they were talking about a hazardous tanker truck, this conversation could easily have been about transporting those prefab homes I heard about in Presidio. In fact, I believe the conversation was, in truth, about those same prefab homes, metaphorically dressed up as toxic waste tanker trucks.
In that same conversation it was claimed that the railroad was now allegedly onboard with “raising the height of the truss and widening the width” of the bridge. Someone else piped up and said that if that doesn’t work, the best thing to do was to bypass Alpine. That way “toxic tankers” and freight traffic would be led away from Alpine, freeing up congestion for tourists to visit Alpine and everything would be great!
Two points. First, thirty plus years ago TXDOT made this same claim to Ft. Stockton: that building a bypass would shuttle freight off of Stockton’s streets and free up the city for tourists and other travelers.
Upon that promise, TXDOT built that bypass and Stockton was promptly killed because ALL traffic used the bypass and NO “tourists” drove through the city. For thirty plus years Stockton was a “dead town” and didn’t recover until very recently with the development of oil in the area.
Truth is, if you give travelers the choice of either driving through quaint towns and cities on their way to their final destination or the convenience and speed of bypassing them to get where they’re going faster, they’ll pick “convenience and speed” every time.
Second point. Back to the Presidio trip. When the TXDOT official told us what the prefab company wanted, I, along with a few others, made the suggestion that when those trucks got to Marfa, that they turn left. There’s a long, level road leading all the way to Van Horn and I10. From there the prefabs could turn left to El Paso or right to Ft. Stockton or wherever else they wanted to go. It would be the cheapest option for everyone, and Marfa, Ft. Davis, and Alpine would be spared. However, I was told you can’t tell trucks where to go and, besides, companies didn’t want to spend more on fuel costs.
Think about this: they’re claiming (the prefab company and freight) that it’s more expensive to drive about 67 miles along a flat road to Van Horn and I10 than to travel about a hundred miles through the mountains, through Ft. Davis, through Alpine, and on to Ft. Stockton. To save cents on alleged extra fuel, these freight interests and the power behind them would prefer TXDOT use your money to completely destroy your quality of life.
At this same meeting in Alpine, a TXDOT official next said, “we need to get these people use to freight traffic.” If you’re unclear, “these people” are you living in Marfa, Ft. Davis, and Alpine.
Now, if you’re properly civic minded and want to help out TXDOT and “get use to freight traffic,” may I suggest you drive to Pecos and experience that “wonderful” freight traffic. Drive along farm road 1776 to Monahans and enjoy that “neighborly” freight traffic. Or partake of the freight congestion of Odessa/Midland. In fact, the next time you encounter those prefab houses driving along the Loop Rd. pull over to the side and let them pass. Then, drive behind them as they lumber to the red lights before McDonald’s. Follow them as they plod to the stop sign and turn left in front of Subway towards Ft. Stockton.
Imagine sixteen of those, plus all that wonderful Pecos/Monahans/Odessa freight traffic coming up from Presidio, driving along E. Holland Ave and on towards Ft. Stockton or driving from Ft. Stockton, along W. Holland Ave., and on towards Presidio.
I want to be clear. I believed in the Process. Public safety. Road improvement. Public involvement. But the “Process,” it’s clear now, was not about a safety study, but to get us to here: Freight.
Now, put this newspaper down and gather your family up in the truck and drive. Drive between Alpine and Marfa. Alpine and Ft. Davis. Or to wherever your favorite spot is and know that your quality of life at this moment, the beautiful environment you find yourself in at this moment, will be gone in five years.
We (Marfa, Ft. Davis, and Alpine) are going to be cut up six ways to Sunday by decision makers who don’t live here and don’t think we have the power or the votes to affect them.
The Last Frontier is Gone.
For all the hand-wringing about Marfa being divided over C3’s proposed festival,
it seems the exact opposite is true. The voices joined together against this thing
are from varied backgrounds and span multiple generations:
old timers, new comers, ranchers, artists, business owners, service workers,
bird-watchers, hep cats, young pups and grandparents. The citizens of Marfa
have come together to say no.
Lisa & Jack Copeland
I’d like to take this time to acknowledge the community members that have been attending our Presidio County Commissioners Court Meetings where the development of the Mass Gatherings Application is concerned. We have never had to deal with this issue, and I think it is of great importance that we get as much assistance as we can in order to get it right. First and foremost, Shelly Bernstein, Trey Gerfers and Neil Chavigney, who continuously pushed us to do a public setting for advice and guidance from the community that we serve. You all have continued on even when it felt like it wasn’t going to happen. I know there are many other people who have also done a great amount of work on the subject, I can’t name everyone, but you all know who you are. I am grateful to all of you because you show us how much you care about our communities. Secondly, to the Presidio County Judge and her assistant, Vanessa Sanchez, I know that they have poured countless hours into this process. Thanks also goes out to the Administration at Marfa ISD, Mr. Aguero, Dr. John Sherrill, their maintenance employees and the cafeteria personnel, who accommodated the large group at the Robinson cafeteria the evening of October 2, 2019. They did a fantastic job of setting up!
Everyone that has come out has been well spoken and thoughtful in what they’ve shared with us. The no’s far outweighed the yes’ and to those few people, especially Rob Crowley, thank you for your bravery and willingness to go against the grain. It’s not easy to come out and say what you feel, especially when you know that the majority of the people in the room may not feel the same way that you do. We should always be allowed to say our peace and be able to continue on in this beautiful community as friends.
Although I cannot predict the future, and I don’t know what will come of any mass gathering, I am grateful that you all care enough to open up and tell us how you feel on the matter, and on any other matter. We are not serving you well if we do not permit you all to help us understand what you expect from us. We need an application in place, but we should never rush a process. There is so much at risk, we really need to take the time to allow for all questions to be answered. Keep in mind that no amount of preparedness can ever guarantee 100% safety. In today’s world, you cannot leave your home and be assured nothing will happen, but we should make every effort to try to be a cautious as humanly possible. Please continue to reach out to us! I’m always willing to listen.
Proud to serve Presidio County,
Brenda Silva Bentley
Commissioner, Pct. 1
December 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy.”
November 22, 1963 – JFK assassination
1968 – too much to summarize
August 8, 1974 – Nixon resigns
March 30, 1981 – Reagan shot
September 11, 2001 – no reference necessary
October 6, 2019 – What?
The above dates are some of the most important in recent American history. Those who find it difficult to keep up with current events may wonder what is so significant about October 6, 2019. That is the date America gave up all pretense of being a world leader, a country whose commitments would always be honored, a country that stood with its allies no matter what.
We may all forget the date but the effect of Trump’s betrayal of our former Kurdish allies in Syria will be felt for decades to come. That betrayal announced to our friends and foes alike that the supposed commitments of the United States have no meaning, that if those in need reach out for assistance they better look somewhere else, as the Kurds have now done. Worse, that the American lives lost and sacrifices made on behalf of some of our previous commitments were done in vain, as the progress previously made now crumbles.
Even Republicans like Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and Liz Cheney and evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson recognized early on the likelihood of the moral and political disaster that is now unfolding, as verified accounts of Turkish humanitarian atrocities escalate. Those of us who choose to ignore the multitude of conflicts occurring around the world should also know Trump’s green light to Turkey isn’t just about our former Kurdish allies. It is about all our allies worldwide, if we still have any, and how willing they will be to help us at some future date. Or, remembering Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds, if they will help us at all.
Maybe it’s just me, but none of that sounds like it is “making America great again.”
To the Editor:
On behalf of all of us at the Chinati Foundation, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported and participated in Chinati Weekend 2019.
We would like to express our gratitude to the following individuals and foundations that supported Chinati as sponsors of the weekend: Brooke Alexander, Susan and Richard Anderson, Valerie and Robert Arber, Katherine Bash and Duncan Kennedy, Gabriel Catone and Bruce Cohen, Chadwick-Loher Foundation, Laura and Walter Elcock, Foley Gardere, Kristina and Jeff Fort, Mack and Cece Fowler, Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, Roger Gates, Glenn Gehan, Matthew Goudeau, Sam Hamilton and Jennifer Chaiken, Sarah E. Harte and John S. Gutzler Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, Karen Heithoff, Ben E. Keith Foundation, James Kelly, Lorri Kershner, Jenny and Trey Laird, Raymond Learsy, City of Marfa, Ross Moody and the Moody Foundation, Greg Morse, Mrs. Robbie Mourmans-Ramaekers, Klaus and Ulla Neugebauer, Hotel Paisano, Rebecca and Christian Patry, Dan and Ashlyn Perry, Rosenthal Family Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, Lindy Thorsen and Terry Mowers, Tocker Foundation, Patricia Villareal and Tom Leatherbury, Erin and Larry Waks, Jill and John Walsh, John Wesley Foundation, and David Zwirner.
Thank you to everyone who purchased tickets and attended our benefit dinner Saturday night. We are also grateful to all our members who support Chinati throughout the year.
Many thanks to the following for their generous contributions toward making the weekend a success: The City of Marfa, Aesop, Chris Avedon, David Beebe and Primo Carrasco, Yvonne Beltran and Salsa Puedes, Beth Davis and Purple PR, Ben E. Keith, Joe Williams and Big Bend Coffee Roasters, the Big Bend Sentinel, Adam Bork and Food Shark, Teal Étoile Black, Todd Touron and Tequila Casa Dragones, Mark Cash, Chris Conners, John Conners, Felipe Cordero and Marfa Overnight Trailer Park, JD DiFabbio, Nick Fazio, Nancy Francis, Gage Hotel, Anahi Garcia, Ginger Griffice and Marfa Band Soap, Frank Hernandez, Darby Hillman, Levi Hinojos, Hotel Saint George, Jett’s Grill and the Hotel Paisano, Ari Luna, Regina Bueno, Jun Hyung Kwon, and Mal Mezcal, Minerva Lopez and Marfa Visitor Center, Marfa Independent School District, Marfa Public Radio, Alex Marks, Estevan Marquez, Elise Pepple, Adele Powers, Richard’s Rainwater, Scribe Winery, Kaki Aufdengarten-Scott, Mark Scott, Katy Rose Elsasser and Convenience West, Julie Speed and Fran Christina, Maria Ureste, Mia Valentini, and Misty Wilbourne.
A sincere thank you to Gory Smelley and Marfa Recording Co., for managing all aspects of sound and tech for the talks, music, and film.
A very special thank you to Krista Steinhauer and her team at Stellina for their delicious food and exceptional service at our benefit dinner. We so deeply appreciate you making the dinner event such a success six years in a row!
A special thank you to Lizzy Wetzel and Magic Hour Marfa for making the room look beautiful and the experience seamless.
Thank you to Linda Norden for her John Wesley talk on Saturday and discussion with Michael Roch on Sunday.
We would like to thank Nancy Whang and Rayna Russom of Ladies of LCD Soundsystem for a fabulous dance party Saturday night.
A heartfelt thank you to Virginia Lebermann, Rocky Barnette, Vicente Celis, Bobby Ramirez, Jerram Rojo, and the Capri for hosting Ladies of LCD Soundsystem on Saturday night.
Thank you to Chinati artist in residence Leeza Meksin for her open studio at the Locker Plant and to Solange Knowles for the screening of her film When I Get Home on Sunday night.
Special thanks to the student volunteers from El Paso Community College, New Mexico State University, San Antonio College, Sul Ross State University, Texas Christian University, Texas State University, Texas Tech University, Trinity University, University of Texas Austin, and University of Texas El Paso who enabled us to open the entire Chinati collection over the weekend.
Many thanks to our neighbors for their patience over the weekend and for allowing us to direct street traffic around Chinati. As always, thank you to the many Marfans, West Texas locals, and visitors who spent time with us.
And my most sincere thank you to the extraordinary staff at Chinati who make the whole weekend possible.
Jenny Moore, Director
The Chinati Foundation