Recently in Austin/Central Texas

Just a few bits that have been haunting tabs in my browser:

  • The Travis County Commissioners have approved a measure to hold a public hearing on a salary increase for public officials, including themselves. During what is still an extraordinarily difficult time economically. Well, all of them except Commissioner Huber. The money quote comes from Commissioner Gomez…

    Commissioner Margaret Gomez said that the commissioners do not get a better tax rate. “No one cuts our prices for food or transportation. We have to deal with those expenditures with what we earn. It’s about public service, but we have to take care of our families.”

    Uh, Commissioner, if you’re having problems making ends meet on $92,000+ per year, I think maybe you should look closely at your spending. As for your public service, YOU RAN HARD FOR RE-ELECTION. You wanted to be re-elected in 2010. Surely you realized what the job paid. Frankly, you’re being more than fairly compensated for your services. I’m absolutely certain that someone will be happy to relieve you of your burden in 2014 or sooner if you’d like to go ahead and resign.

  • Apparently, there’s a problem out on the southern leg of the 130 Tollway. It seems that the road is disintegrating ‘because of the drought’.

    The consortium, led by Spanish toll road company Cintra and a subsidiary of San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp., is paying all of those costs, including the added $30 million. It will split toll revenue with TxDOT over the life of the lease, with TxDOT’s share increasing from a few percent to as much as half as traffic grows on the road over the years.

    Texas 130 lies over the Blackland Prairie section of the state, known for its clay-rich soils and their tendency to expand in wet periods and contract in drier times.

    The problem, Lippincott said, “was neither faulty workmanship nor faulty design. What happened was a historic drought.”

    The company’s inspectors first detected the cracks last fall, he said. The work involves not only replacing broken pavement, but also changing the substructure of compacted soil beneath to create moisture barriers with impermeable layers.

    “We’re going to keep the wet parts wet and the dry parts dry at the subsurface level,” Lippincott said.

    The company in some cases is reworking soil and pavement where no cracks had been found because pre-construction soil sampling had indicated those areas have heavy clay content and could be prone to similar damage in the future.

    “For us, this is the stitch in time that saves nine,” Lippincott said. “We’re making these changes now so that in a year or three from now we don’t have to put up orange barrels, slow the traffic down and go fill the cracks.”

    CintraZachry are a collection of fuckups who should have bedded the road properly at the start. Instead, they half assed it for some stupid reason and are now coming back and playing ‘Look how honest we are! We’re fixing this horrible situation out of our own pockets!’ Seriously, Zachry has been building roads in Texas for decades and they didn’t think this would be an issue? There are a ton of roads that run through blackland that weren’t as badly effected by the drought because they were built properly. So, why wasn’t the 130 done that way?

    And why does Ben Wear completely miss that? Is he just sooo demoralized that the fight has completely gone out of him? I mean, he didn’t even make Lippincott work for his money on this one. Neither faulty workmanship or faulty design? I’ll go with him on the workmanship, but whoever did the design and engineering seriously fucked up. If I was an investor in Cintra’s credits, I’d be very concerned right now.

    I mean, would you want to invest in the credits of a company set up to build and operate toll roads that can’t build a road right the first time?

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