“Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine.” – Robert C. Gallagher
When I started working in the toll road industry 20 years ago, coin baskets were a huge part of the toll collection business. Today, all-electronic tolling is making them obsolete. Change is eliminating change as coin baskets vanish from the American landscape, just like tollhouses vanished decades ago.
The world around us is always changing. Change can be difficult to accept, especially for those of us who love history and long for the past. I am as sentimental as anyone. I miss my favorite restaurant (It just wasn’t the same after the owners retired. It eventually closed.) And I mourn the loss of places I once frequented like Kaydeross Park in upstate New York, which is now a lakeside townhouse community.
These days, it seems like nothing is changing more rapidly than Austin. According to the Austin-American Statesman, 167,000 new people moved to the area in just the last four years. New subdivisions are proliferating, high rise condos are sprouting up everywhere and older homes are being renovated or torn down and rebuilt. On MoPac, the story is much the same. After remaining relatively unchanged for more than 40 years, a major transformation is underway.
We are building a better MoPac with new Express Lanes; tasteful sound walls; new, quieter asphalt; enhanced landscaping and better bike and pedestrian facilities. Nearby residents will enjoy a more peaceful existence, and drivers will have greater mobility. But, it won’t be the same MoPac that some folks have grown to know.
The disheveled wooden fences, thick underbrush and unique graffiti will be gone. In its place will be an attractive, but slightly more urban feeling corridor developed with the input of an aesthetics committee consisting of area neighborhood residents and representatives from groups like the Texas Historical Commission.
Hopefully, graffiti won’t be as much of a problem on the new MoPac because we will have dozens of traffic cameras monitoring the corridor 24/7. If only graffiti artists could be tasered remotely from our new traffic management center! Actually, the attorneys thwarted that plan, so instead, we’ll be taking the “Naked Gun” approach to rid the corridor of the scourge of graffiti.
Despite these upgrades, I am sure the facelift will come with a touch of sadness for some longtime residents and even some newcomers.
The band Lonestar expressed the sentiment well in their song “Everything’s Changed”.
“They put up a plant where we used to park
That ol’ drive-in’s a new Wal-Mart
The café is closed where our names were carved on that corner booth
Everything’s changed except for the way I feel about you”
Drive-ins were great except for the swarming mosquitoes and the intolerable summer heat and humidity. In the end, most people opted for air conditioned, bug free indoor theaters. Likewise on MoPac, I suspect most people will ultimately be pleased with the transformation. Best of all, they’ll be able to torture their children by saying “I can remember when MoPac was….”