Historic connections

I thoroughly enjoyed veteran Trib staff writer and managing editor J.B. Smith’s article about the historic Central Texas Interurban and the Texas Electric Railway Co., Waco’s local streetcar system. Historic photos by Waco’s busy photographer Fred Gildersleeve and stories by my grandparents taking the Interurban and streetcar systems seeded the nostalgic ambition to personally campaign for a modern streetcar system 11 years ago in Oklahoma City. Gildersleeve’s photos of historic Waco and their stories assuredly helped propel the OKC modern streetcar system into life.

During a recent trip to my native Waco, I was disheartened to hear of the destruction of the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 35 that connected Baylor University to downtown Waco. I encourage fellow Wacoans to consider building a streetcar system to once again connect Baylor, Magnolia-spurred development and our historic downtown districts and neighborhoods in a coherent way. Perhaps some former rail alignments could be resurrected to reconnect the broader Waco area to downtown.

OKC’s modern streetcar system faced tremendous controversy over the expense and permanence of the infrastructure. However, for every public dollar spent, nearly $12 to $20 of reinvestment into the area along the rail alignment has occurred. It has undoubtedly fostered more pedestrian activity, more exposure to the merits of public transit. It has been a tremendous revenue generator.

Our built environment matters. Waco has some of the finest parks, a beautiful university and increasingly dynamic historic downtown and neighborhoods. Let’s take the loss of the pedestrian bridge over I-35 to heart and connect all of these assets in a safe, convenient and permanent way. I encourage Waco leaders to pursue a plan putting pedestrians first through a modern electric streetcar system buttressed by prominently painted crosswalks, bike lanes, abundant sidewalks and trails. Let’s connect Waco’s best features in a way that all of us can safely enjoy as citizens, students and visitors.

Jeff Bezdek, Oklahoma City

Insulting column

The June 18 column by economic expert Dave Ramsey requires some feedback. Although Ramsey’s columns often contain good financial advice, I take serious exception not only to what he says regarding financial aid but also how he says it. Not only did he not answer the question concerning savings in a student’s name affecting future eligibility for financial aid but his response was insulting and off-putting. Ramsey seems to feel anyone planning to qualify for financial aid is “posing as broke.” That is not anymore true than a business legitimately planning for and reporting deductible expenses in order to legally minimize income-tax liability.

Harry Harelik, Waco