Austin
8:54 am
Wed February 22, 2012

AM Update 2/22/12: Cost of Boardwalk Rises, Juárez Bullet Strikes El Pasoan, Meth Seizures at Border

Mounting Expense for Lady Bird Boardwalk 

In 2010, City of Austin voters ushered in Proposition 1, a project to construct a boardwalk trail over and along Lady Bird Lake. Back then, the estimated cost of the project was $17.4 million, but as of today, the lowest bid (of eight) is $20.7 million. That's a 19% jump.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the cost increase can be attributed to two main factors: Oil prices (no surprise there) and a construction industry still trying to correct itself post-recession. Builders are finally doing things they put off during those lean years, like replacing old equipment, and that's made government building projects more costly. Still, city officials aren't worried about coming up with the extra money. 

 Says the Statesman:

Howard Lazarus, director of the city's Public Works Department, said there are numerous options for coming up with the extra money — unspent bonds authorized in past elections, bonds that might be OK'd this November, short-term borrowing, even private donations — and that the project is not threatened.

He said he anticipates settling on a source, or sources, for the extra money later this week, and that the city staff probably will make a contractor recommendation to the City Council by late March or early April. That would allow the project to begin construction by late May.

Proposition 1 originally slated $14.4 million for the boardwalk, with the remaining $3 million to come from the Trail Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit that devotes itself to improving Lady Bird Lake's hike and bike trail. In November, it announced it had nearly met that goal already with $2.4 million raised, and now aims to raise $5 million total for both the current construction project and other trail work.

Woman Shot at the Border

The fact that the Texas border has been caught in a flare of drug-related violence since 2008 isn’t new. But yesterday, a woman in El Paso became the first person to be hit by gunfire from Mexico.

The 48-year-old woman was walking through the downtown district of El Paso when her leg was grazed by a .223-caliber bullet, reported the El Paso Times. The wound was not life threatening.

El Paso officials believe the bullet is a stray from a shoot-out in Ciudad Juárez. Juárez police and alleged carjackers exchanged about 50 shots at the same time the woman was wounded, reported the Associated Press.

This isn’t the first time a stray bullet found its way across the border. In the past four years, according to the El Paso Times, rounds fired from Mexico have hit El Paso a total of two times. In both occasions buildings were hit, including City Hall and a building at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Mexican Meth Imports on the Rise

Often pegged as a domestic, cooked-in-an-old-car type of narcotic, methamphetamine supply in the U.S. has shifted production. This fiscal year, seizures at Laredo's customs district of incoming Mexican meth are expected to jump last year's total by 60%.

According to the Texas Tribune, Mexican gangs have reverted to an old meth recipe that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, after Mexico banned the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the ingredients normally used in making meth.  The process is called "P2P," and uses a substance called propanone.  The result is a highly addictive version of the drug, and reflective of what Jane C. Maxwell, a senior research scientist at the Addiction Research Institute at the Center for Social Work Research, calls the cyclical nature of meth.

"If you pass a precursor bill it goes down, and then it comes back up again,” Maxwell said. “The lesson on this is that we can’t congratulate ourselves for doing away with pseudoephedrine. People keep looking for other recipes.”

The surge in meth production has implications for the Mexican cartel wars. The three top drug revenue sources have long been marijuana, cocaine and heroin – all plant-derived – but meth is chemically created, and its street value is rising.  A pound of meth in 2011 was worth $20,000 to $25,000 in San Antonio, and unlike cocaine, where Mexican drug cartels frequently act simply as transporters for Columbians, meth can be cooked  on dealers' home turf, ultimately garnering more profits.