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Amtrak looks to expand service through Longview
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Amtrak has gained needed support for possible expansion of passenger rail service between Dallas and Meridian, Mississippi, which would include the Texas Eagle route through Longview and Marshall.

The Canadian Pacific freight railway company recently announced it is backing the expansion.

The announcement also conveyed Amtrak’s support of Canadian Pacific’s proposed merger with Kansas City Southern railways.

“Given CP’s consistent record as an Amtrak host, we support CP’s proposal to expand its network,” Amtrak President Stephen J. Gardner said in the announcement. “This is exactly what Congress and the administration are seeking: Amtrak and the freight railroads working together to benefit freight customers, Amtrak passengers, our state/regional partners and the general public.”

The 1-20 Corridor Council is a nonprofit advocacy organization and multi-state coalition comprised of mayors, judges, elected officials and other stakeholders along the I-20 corridor. The group has been working for more than 15 years to establish the east-west long-distance passenger rail connection between the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Atlanta.

The expanded route also would connect to the East Coast, including Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Amtrak is working with the Southern Railway Commission to offer passenger rail service for the first time in more than 50 years between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and possibly between Dallas and Meridian, Mississippi.

“The I-20 Corridor Council and all who have been working with great devotion to re-establish this important east-west passenger rail connection across the southeastern region of our nation are very pleased and grateful for the positive steps that Amtrak and Canadian Pacific announced this week,” said former Harrison County Judge Richard Anderson, chairman of the I-20 Corridor Council.

“We look forward to continued progress in this regard as we continue to work toward making the I-20 Corridor long-distance passenger rail connection a reality for the great benefit of our Southern region and nation.”

Anderson also said, with the recent passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the I-20 Corridor passenger rail project could provide an excellent return on investment.

That’s because the project would require a tiny amount from the $16 billion designated in the bill for long-distance passenger rail.

“The feasibility and capacity studies on the I-20 Corridor route, which have been completed by Amtrak, TXDOT, and others using the $738,000 in grant funding that the Corridor Council obtained with the assistance of former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, determined that the I-20 Corridor route would be economically viable on existing right of way without any annual subsidy and that capacity could be increased, such as additional sidings, for a relatively low cost and in relatively short period of time,” Anderson said. “Plus, this new passenger rail service should not adversely affect freight traffic.”


Education
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Longview High School students continue restoration process of iconic skate car
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Editor's note: This story has been corrected.

A piece of Longview’s history is coming back to life, thanks to Longview High School’s Art Car Club.

Students are continuing the journey of restoring the historical Rollercade skating car, a process that began about seven years ago.

The skate-shaped auto was once on top of a pole at the former Rollercade skating rink in Longview that was at Eastman’s intersection of Tryon Road and Eden Drive.

LES HASSELL 

Longview High School senior Art student Chloe Hamilton color sands, removing layers of paint to reveal the "Skate Car's" original finish Tuesday, January 12, 2022, in the school's sculpture department. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Jeff Hull, ceramics and sculpture art teacher and club sponsor at Longview High School, is excited about the restoration process. He said he considers himself the caregiver of the skate car as he was the one who took it off the pole.

“We’re restoring an icon for Longview. This was a car that was made by a company using a mold to make that fiberglass shoe or boot for a roller skate then it was put on a pole. Then Rollercade went out of business and a different company bought it, and I took it off the pole,” he said. “I’m kinda the caretaker and custodian of it. It’s just unique to Longview that if you’ve lived in Longview long enough, you remember this.”

Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo 

Longview High School senior Art students Harrison Taylor and Chloe Hamilton color sand, removing layers of paint to reveal the “Skate Car’s” original finish Tuesday in the school’s sculpture department.

The car is being worked on now by club members Chloe Hamilton and Harrison Taylor, who are both seniors.

“It feels good to take part of this, and I feel that I’m really giving back to the town that I’ve grown up in for so many years,” Taylor said. “Feels like I’m helping to bring back forgotten history.”

Hull said the idea to bring the skate car back to its original color scheme was inspired by 2016 alumnus Mitchell King.

“Mitchell King has been helping us and gave us the idea to color sand this back to this picture my wife found from the ‘80s when the skate car was actually driving down the street,” he said. “He has been a huge help, and it’s been really fun to have a graduate come back. You see that a lot in colleges and universities. We all come back to help, but how many times does someone from high school come back to help out the kids that are there now?”

Hull said another asset to bringing the car to life was Dan Larsen, Hull’s former auto professor at LeTourneau University, who taught him in the 1970s.

“He was the one that did all the mechanicals. He put the engine back in, he did the transmission, suspension, the clutch, brakes and had this whole thing running. If it wasn’t for Dan Larsen, this car wouldn’t be here right now, because it wouldn’t drive. It came off of the pole without an engine,” he said.

LES HASSELL 

Longview High School senior Art students Harrison Taylor and Chloe Hamilton color sand, removing layers of paint to reveal the “Skate Car’s” original finish Tuesday, January 12, 2022, in the school’s sculpture department. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Hamilton and Taylor both said the restoration process is not hard, but the true challenge is the time-consuming sanding process. Students are set to work on restoring the auto every Tuesday for about one-and-a-half to two hours, according to Hamilton.

Hull said he hopes to have the restored skate car ready in April for a car parade in Houston where they plan to showcase it .

He added when the skate car was part of Longview’s Christmas parade, he received a lot of positive feedback from the community.

“When driving in the Christmas parade, the whole time people were like, ‘Yay, thanks for bringing back the car back,’ ‘I remember it,’ I used to skate there.’ It’s those cool memories that come back. That’s why we’re doing this,” he said. “It’s different in the sense that we know we didn’t create it ... but the feeling of restoring a historic icon is really, really cool.”

As the ongoing restoration process occurs, Hull is asking help from the Longview community in bringing back memories. The Art Car Club is in search of any and all photos of the car before 1992 to help with the restoration process. Email photos to Hull at jhull@lisd.org.


Omicron may be headed for a rapid drop in U.S. and Britain
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Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19’s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.

The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

At the same time, experts warn that much is still uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold. The plateauing or ebbing in the two countries is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. And weeks or months of misery still lie ahead for patients and overwhelmed hospitals even if the drop-off comes to pass.

“There are still a lot of people who will get infected as we descend the slope on the backside,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, which predicts that reported cases will peak within the week.

The University of Washington’s own highly influential model projects that the number of daily reported cases in the U.S. will crest at 1.2 million by Jan. 19 and will then fall sharply “simply because everybody who could be infected will be infected,” according to Mokdad.

In fact, he said, by the university’s complex calculations, the true number of new daily infections in the U.S. — an estimate that includes people who were never tested — has already peaked, hitting 6 million on Jan. 6.

In Britain, meanwhile, new COVID-19 cases dropped to about 140,000 a day in the last week, after skyrocketing to more than 200,000 a day earlier this month, according to government data.

Kevin McConway, a retired professor of applied statistics at Britain’s Open University, said that while cases are still rising in places such as southwest England and the West Midlands, the outbreak may have peaked in London.

The figures have raised hopes that the two countries are about to undergo something similar to what happened in South Africa, where in the span of about a month the wave crested at record highs and then fell significantly.

“We are seeing a definite falling-off of cases in the U.K., but I’d like to see them fall much further before we know if what happened in South Africa will happen here,” said Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia.

Differences between Britain and South Africa, including Britain’s older population and the tendency of its people to spend more time indoors in the winter, could mean a bumpier outbreak for the country and other nations like it.

On the other hand, British authorities’ decision to adopt minimal restrictions against omicron could enable the virus to rip through the population and run its course much faster than it might in Western European countries that have imposed tougher COVID-19 controls, such as France, Spain and Italy.

Shabir Mahdi, dean of health sciences at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, said European countries that impose lockdowns won’t necessarily come through the omicron wave with fewer infections; the cases may just be spread out over a longer period of time.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said there have been 7 million new COVID-19 cases across Europe in the past week, calling it a “tidal wave sweeping across the region.” WHO cited modeling from Mokdad’s group that predicts half of Europe’s population will be infected with omicron within about eight weeks.

By that time, however, Hunter and others expect the world to be past the omicron surge.

“There will probably be some ups and downs along the way, but I would hope that by Easter, we will be out of this,” Hunter said.

Still, the sheer numbers of people infected could prove overwhelming to fragile health systems, said Dr. Prabhat Jha of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“The next few weeks are going to be brutal because in absolute numbers, there are so many people being infected that it will spill over into ICUs,” Jha said.

Mokdad likewise warned in the U.S.: “It’s going to be a tough two or three weeks. We have to make hard decisions to let certain essential workers continue working, knowing they could be infectious.”

Omicron could one day be seen as a turning point in the pandemic, said Meyers, at the University of Texas. Immunity gained from all the new infections, along with new drugs and continued vaccination, could render the coronavirus something with which we can more easily coexist.

“At the end of this wave, far more people will have been infected by some variant of COVID,” Meyers said. “At some point, we’ll be able to draw a line — and omicron may be that point — where we transition from what is a catastrophic global threat to something that’s a much more manageable disease.”

That’s one plausible future, she said, but there is also the possibility of a new variant — one that is far worse than omicron — arising.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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Longview public safety entities hope to fill open positions during hiring event
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Longview public safety organizations are hoping to fill open positions through a hiring event Thursday at the Longview Convention Complex.

The event will be hosted by the Longview Public Safety Communications Division, Longview Police Department and Longview Fire Department. Dispatchers are needed, according to representatives.

Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton said the city is looking to fill 11 dispatcher positions.

“Our 911 dispatch operators are often the first point of communication between residents and Longview public safety operations,” Public Safety Communications Manager Matt Ainsworth said in a statement. “Dispatchers provide coordination and support for police, fire, and EMS operations. Applicants don’t need prior 911 dispatch experience to apply, and if hired, they will receive paid, on-the-job training.”

Thornton said the police department is allotted 175 sworn officers and currently employs 160.

“All agencies in our area and across Texas are struggling to find qualified candidates for the job,” Thornton said. “These are stressful jobs and require an extensive background check along with working shift work.”

In addition to officers and dispatchers, departments also employ administrative assistants, records and evidence technicians as well as crime analyst personnel.

Longview Fire Marshal Kevin May said the department has two openings for firefighter/paramedic.

“Public Safety departments across the state are struggling to hire and retain employees,” May said.

May said the department’s specialty teams offer unique opportunities.

“We have different teams like the high-angle rope rescue team, Hazardous Material Response team, Water Rescue team and the Wildland Firefighter team are just a few,” May said.

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Longview Convention Complex, 100 Grand Blvd.

Attendees will be able to meet with recruiters, receive information about the hiring process and about the available job positions.

Thornton said there will be computers available for applicants to apply for the jobs. Representatives from the departments and human resources will conduct preliminary interviews with applicants.

Current City of Longview job opportunities can be found at LongviewTexas.gov/Jobs.


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