Express News – December 9, 2014:
25-year plan for transit projects approved
Members of public oppose toll lanes
By Drew Joseph STAFF WRITER
The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved its latest long-term transportation plan Monday, but citizens who spoke at the meeting steered much of the conversation to opposition to toll lanes.
The new plan, called Mobility 2040, outlines projects that could be built in Bexar, Guadalupe and Comal counties, in addition to Boerne, over the next 25 years. Projects can only be included in the plan if the MPO has identified possible funding for them, but just because a project is included in a long-range plan does not mean it will be built.
Mobility 2040 includes 34 projects that would cost $993 million. The MPO is assuming that $343 million would come from the MPO’s discretionary funding and $650 million would come from Proposition 1, a measure approved by voters in November to provide the Texas Department of Transportation with more money.
The plan also includes four projects that would feature managed lanes, which include tolls. Those projects — stretches of Interstate 10, Interstate 37 and Texas 151 — would generate $605 million in revenue.
About a dozen members of the public spoke at the meeting, almost universally railing against toll roads. Many said that Proposition 1 funding should be dedicated to the widening of U.S. 281 from Loop 1604 to the Comal County line to avoid tolls there.
“That’s a challenge from the citizens, to do it without tolls, without rails,” Beverly Adams of San Antonio said about highway projects.
But the state has still not determined how it will divvy up Proposition 1 funding, and the MPO board was not deciding Monday whether to use the Proposition 1 money for the U.S. 281 expansion.
Still, the inclusion of some managed-lane projects in the 2040 plan was enough to persuade San Antonio Councilman Mike Gallagher, who was attending his first meeting as an MPO board member, not to vote for the plan.
“It’s really something that’s got everybody very, very worried,” said Gallagher, from District 10 on the North Side.
Gallagher’s was the lone no vote. A number of other board members said they oppose toll lanes but had to vote for the plan because it included so many other projects.
MPO officials also noted that some past projects, including Wurzbach Parkway and sections of Loop 1604, were originally marked to be funded by tolls but were later paid for by other means.
The 34 projects listed in Mobility 2040 include adding capacity to Loops 1604 and 410 and a number of farm-to-market roads in areas outside San Antonio. The plan proposes transit centers in Boerne, Seguin and New Braunfels if services later extend out to those areas. It also envisions future rapid-transit corridors, one running east-west from one end of Loop 410 across the city to the other, and one running north-south from Loop 410 on the South Side up to the Comal County line. firstname.lastname@example.org