April 11, 2005
The Willie Nelson Turnpike

So there's a hubbub over naming a stretch of highway after Willie Nelson.

Legislation to name the Texas 130 turnpike from Georgetown to Creedmoor after the man who put Austin music on the map cleared its first committee Wednesday. But it lost more than 18 miles in the process, and there were signs that some Republicans might not be so comfortable honoring the well-known Democrat.

Even with a toll road.

Texas 130, under construction now and scheduled to open in 2007, will be 49 miles long. And state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos' bill as filed would have named the entire length for Nelson.

But when Barrientos, an Austin Democrat, unveiled Senate Bill 802 to the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, he said that Republican Sens. Steve Ogden and Jeff Wentworth told him they didn't want the parts of the road in their districts to carry Nelson's name.

That trimmed about 17 miles off the north end in Williamson County, represented by Ogden who hails from Bryan-College Station, and the southerly mile-and-a-half in the small piece of Travis County in San Antonian Wentworth's bailiwick.


Asked about their reservations about Nelson, Ogden said he doesn't favor naming roads after people who are still alive and declined further comment. Wentworth, meanwhile, made it clear he has several concerns.

"Let's be candid: This is a political deal," Wentworth said, Nelson "was out there having fund-raisers, raising money for (Democratic presidential hopeful) Dennis Kucinich against President Bush, and that was just last year."

Wentworth said he has a general leaning as well against naming roads for living people. He was in the Senate and Ogden in the House when the Legislature in 1995 and 1997 named roads for the first President Bush and former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, both very much alive.

"To compare a former president of the United States with a country singer, surely that's self-explanatory," Wentworth said.

The Legislature, in that same 1995 bill honoring Bentsen, named a road in Brazoria County after Nolan Ryan, at that point only just retired from his baseball career.

Wentworth and Ogden both voted for that bill. Ryan, a Republican, has never served as president of the United States.

First of all, let me say that I don't give a rat's patoot about naming highways for people. I don't care who a highway is named for, I won't use that name. I don't drive on the Lloyd Bentsen Freeway, I drive on US59. Same thing with SH288 (the Nolan Ryan Freeway), US281 in San Antonio (the Walter J. McAllister Highway), and if those clowns name it after Ronald Reagan, US290. I'll bet that I'm not alone in this.

That said, spare me the crap about country singer versus President. If Willie Nelson hasn't done enough as a Texan to earn this kind of honor, then who has? You don't want to name a road after a guy who votes for the other team, fine. Just admit that's your problem and don't try to hide behind reasons that don't apply to those who do vote for your guys.

But Ryan, unlike Nelson, also hasn't had any trouble with the Internal Revenue Service or brushes with the law over marijuana. To Wentworth, at least, Nelson's past matters.

"All of that figures into it, from my standpoint," Wentworth said. "He's not exactly a role model."

What, you think children who are driven to school on the Willie Nelson Highway will be inspired to grow up and have tax problems? Give me a break.

Via Eye On Williamson County and email from HellieMae.

UPDATE: A Lasso reader thinks Sens. Ogden and Wentworth are missing a marketing opportunity here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 11, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

Willie should be secularly sainted...
the man is a living legend...
he represents the best parts of Texas all over the world...
He'd make a better governor than Goodhair or Kinky Friedman...

Posted by: Mike Switzer on April 11, 2005 8:48 AM

The Willie Nelson Highway will bring new meaning to the song "On the Road Again" :-)

Will the Willie Nelson Highway inspire mothers not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys? :-)

Sorry for the repeat of the earlier joke, but there was a problem on my end.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 11, 2005 11:49 AM

I was also thinking about The Red-Headed Stranger driving down to Whiskey River. :-)

I would dedicate these jokes To All The Girls I've Loved Before, but that would be Crazy, wouldn't it? :-)

(For those you that didn't know, Willie wrote Crazy for Patsy Cline. He was a songwriter long before he became known as a singer).

Posted by: William Hughes on April 11, 2005 1:54 PM

Looks like it's now the Lloyd Bentsen MEMORIAL Freeway.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on May 23, 2006 10:13 AM