Express-News article on Hwy 46 Meeting; mixed reaction from residents

Link to article here or see below.

The meeting feedback we received is in direct contrast to how Mayor Stevick portrays the response in this article. See direct feedback here. Does this sound like “there were no questions left unanswered? The article begins with saying resident reaction was mixed (meaning some in favor and some not), but they could only quote an ex-city councilwoman in favor of a property tax hike to pay for state highways. Also read the New Braunfels paper on the Hwy 46 meeting where Mayor Stevick and Comal County Judge Scheel have a very different perspective on how residents reacted to the meeting than those of their constituents.

About tolling 46, read the previous post for detail, but in this Express-News article, Laura Lopez of TxDOT lied about plans to toll 46 (like Greg Malatek did at the meeting). It’s in the November ’05 Transportation Commission Meeting transcript for ANYONE to verify! FYI, “pass through financing” is also known as pass through tolling or shadow tolling in the toll road industry (see Fitch Ratings Special Report where they refer to it). The county fronts the money for the project and it gets paid back based on the number of cars that pass through their reader. Not hard to put two and two together and see how this works against the taxpayers…shadow tolling only encourages more unbridled growth in the Hill Country. They get their money back faster by loading up our highways with more cars. What incentive is there to curb growth or decrease the necessity of driving with such an agreement? That’s growth the taxpayers, not developers pay for! Do you smell a rat, too?

Project to widen Texas 46 discussed
Nicole Lessin
Express-News Staff Writer

BULVERDE — Plans to widen sections of Texas 46 between Sun Valley Drive to the west end of Old Boerne Road are getting a mixed reaction from residents.

“When the preface is ‘Your taxes are going up,’ you are going to be pretty leery,” said Mayor Sarah Stevick. “(But) I would say the majority of the people are in favor of the Texas 46 project.”

A standing-room-only crowd of about 200 attended the April 26 special City Council workshop at the Guadalupe Valley Telephone Cooperative Auditorium to learn more about the plan, which involves widening a 3.7-mile stretch of the road from two lanes with an intermittent turn lane to four lanes with a continuous turn lane as well as sidewalks.

At the meeting, Police Chief Royce Goodson said on average, 40 percent of local EMS calls each month come from the Texas 46 area. He also said there were nearly 90 accidents on the highway in 2005.

The project is part of a $58 million Texas Department of Transportation program to widen 19 miles of Texas 46 from Loop 337 in New Braunfels to Old Boerne Road.

The first phase of the project to add passing lanes from FM 2722 to Sun Valley Road is scheduled to start in June 2007.

The entire project would be paid for using “pass-through financing” by Comal County and reimbursed by TxDOT.

For the Bulverde section of the roadway, the city would pay about $1.38 million, which would include relocating utilities and purchase of right of way, said City Administrator Phyllis Peterson.

Stevick said under the most likely scenario, the city’s ad valorem tax would be increased about 2 cents per $100 valuation on a home from about 19 cents to 21 cents.

“This project is going to happen fairly soon,” she said. “We have to have the money for right of way acquired by December.”

Despite the increase in taxes, former City Councilwoman Bev Lemes said the widening project is necessary.

“I just feel like with the way the county is growing, we have no choice. We have to improve the safety of our citizens,” she said. “The city is a city; they incorporated to be a city; they need to step up and accept their responsibility.”

But not everyone at the meeting shared Lemes’ point of view.
Rodney Young, a Spring Branch resident, said he was worried that Texas 46 might eventually be turned into a toll road.

“They are trying to separate the two issues when in fact TxDOT has tried to study the toll lanes as a third outer loop around San Antonio,” he said. “They know that’s such a hot-button issue.”

Laura Lopez, a spokeswoman for TxDOT, later said the department had no plans to put toll lanes on Texas 46.

Nonetheless, Young also said many residents thought the plan was inadequate because it did not go far enough west and does not provide an interchange with U.S. 281.

“I think there are less extensive, less expensive alternatives,” he said. “(They are) asking the city to commit to something before TxDOT has a firm plan about what they are going to do.”

However, Stevick said she feels confident the project will receive support from residents, especially in light of the traffic volume and safety issues involving 46.

“People left there with a lot of information, a lot of facts,” she said. “No question was left unanswered.”