Hogs at the trough lobby MPO to keep 281, 1604 toll roads

Let’s keep the hogs at the public trough from raising our taxes by pushing to impose tolls on existing freeways for their personal profiteering! Fight back by emailing the MPO here. Phone numbers to elected officials on the MPO and information on the October 26 MPO meeting where they’ll decide whether or not to keep 281, 1604 toll roads or fix them as freeways are at www.FixGridlock.com
If you want to see who is paying the San Antonio Mobility Coalition (SAMCo) to lobby AGAINST the taxpayers go here.
In yet another glaring example of taxpayer-funded lobbying, the San Antonio Mobility Coalition (SAMCo), a coalition of over 70 private companies who profit from road building, has sent out multiple email blasts encouraging its members to lobby the MPO to keep 281 and 1604 toll roads. The emails also contain blatantly erroneous and even libelous information as well as glaring examples of “the sky is falling” hysteria.

Let’s not forget that SAMCo is also supported by dues from the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. The County has contributed in excess of $250,000 since 2005. SAMCo is chaired by none other than pro-toll Terrell McCombs, with Jim Reed of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA, the tolling authority) as an officer. Guess who else sits on the Executive Committee? Mayor Julian Castro and Councilman John Clamp (who also serves on the MPO). Good Guy Commissioner Adkisson is also on the Executive Committee since the MPO Chair has an automatic seat (I believe its the same for the Mayor and County Judge). But after you read SAMCo’s email, I don’t think you’d fault Commissioner Adkisson for not attending the meetings or supporting this organization.

SAMCo Members:

On October 19 and 26, the Bexar County/San Antonio MPO will host two special meetings to consider revisions to the project descriptions and funding sources for the US 281 North and Loop 1604 Projects.

Specifically, the MPO Policy Board will receive testimony on a proposal by Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson and Comal County resident Terri Hall to eliminate toll financing as an option for funding US 281, Loop 1604, or other projects in Bexar County.

Instead, the Commissioner and Ms. Hall have proposed a plan for US 281 and Loop 1604 that provides far less congestion relief for motorists,  eliminates two-thirds of new lanes along Loop 1604, truncates US 281, makes faulty funding assumptions, and risks losing San Antonio’s existing federal stimulus funding.

After considered review, we believe the MPO Policy Board should reject the Adkisson/Hall plan for the following reasons:

1)      The plan completely removes 16.33 miles of Loop 1604 improvements between Bandera Road and Redland Road, leaving motorists stuck in traffic near I-10, US 281, UTSA, and other key corridor segments.

2)      The plan will result in a substantial reduction in scope for the US 281 North by reducing funding from $475 to $200 million.  The plan does not address how the project would be re-engineered to reflect a funding reduction of 58 percent.

3)      The plan risks losing $216 million in Texas Mobility Fund (TMF) dollars that have been reserved by TxDOT for Loop 1604 and US 281 as leveraged (i.e. tolled) projects.  Because the Commission (TxDOT) has required projects in other urban regions to meet TMF  leveraging requirements, we believe it is extremely doubtful that the Commission would make an exception for San Antonio that would expose TxDOT to charges of favoritism and unfairness.

4)      The plan risks losing $140 million in federal stimulus (ARRA) and Prop 14 dollars awarded specifically for the US 281/Loop 1604 Interchange.  The plan unilaterally diverts $60 million in Prop 14 dollars from the Interchange to  US 281 North and attempts to substitute a similar amount of TMF dollars in its place – also likely to be rejected due to leverage requirements and other technical issues.  With the Interchange no longer fully funded, Commissioners would have little option but to transfer the $140 million to the next eligible “shovel ready” project on the statewide federal stimulus list developed by TxDOT last February.  This might not be in San Antonio.

5)      The plan assumes the Transportation Commission will allocate $200 million in Proposition 12 dollars to Loop 1604.  As of today’s date, the Commission has yet to determine how $1 billion available from Prop 12 dollars for the current biennium will be allocated.  Based on last month’s Commission workshop, it appears that much of this funding will be allocated to safety/maintenance projects and to statewide connectivity (for example I-35 north of Waco).   Whatever remains for  “urban mobility” will likely be awarded through a competitive call for projects.

6)      The plan is not geographically balanced and  fails to provide a system-wide solution for congestion, focusing only on small parts of US 281 and Loop 1604 and leaving little or no funding for transportation improvements in other part of San Antonio and Bexar County.

Since our inception in 2001, SAMCo has supported introduction of new and expanded funding tools and approaches – including tolling as a funding option of last resort – to address declining levels of traditional state and federal funding.

In an era of increasing uncertainty regarding future available funding and with more than $19 billion in unmet transportation needs for our region by 2030 (2006 MPO estimate), we would urge members of the Bexar County/San Antonio MPO Transportation Policy Board to:

1)      Retain all funding options in the MPO’s future plans for US 281, Loop 1604, and other added capacity projects;

2)      Support the ongoing Alamo RMA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) processes for US 281 and Loop 1604, which will include development of both toll and non-toll options.   With two or more years of intense study still ahead, there is no need at this time to pre-determine the outcome or eliminate any particular option;

3)      Reject any plan that does not provide a system-wide solution or that creates a significant geographic imbalance in how the MPO’s transportation funds are allocated.

4)      Continue to support local option legislation, federal and state motor fuels increases/indexing, and creation of other new revenue sources to provide potential new funding for San Antonio projects;

5)      Continue to support development of “Super Street” projects along both US 281 North and Loop 1604 (west) to provide some measure of temporary relief while the longer term studies are being completed.

How SAMCo members/partners can help:

1)      Attend the October 19 and 26 public meetings Click here for details and register to say a few brief words In support of keeping all funding options on the table.

2)      Strongly encourage your co-workers, employees, business associates, friends, neighbors, etc. to do the same.  It is important that the MPO Policy Board see that there is broad-based support for moving forward with these mobility projects and approaches. Consider car-pooling to the meetings, especially the evening of October 26.

3)      Send a brief one or two sentence email to the MPO Policy Board letting them know you support:
a.       Retaining all available options to fund US 281, Loop 1604, and future mobility projects
b.      A system wide solution, not just a solution that only addresses a few selected miles
c.       Moving forward with the Alamo RMA’s Environmental Processes for US 281 and Loop 1604
d.      Anything else you might want to add to personalize your email
e.      Just cut and paste the following email addresses for all voting and ex-officio (nonvoting) MPO members:  jaceves@bexar.org; tadkisson@bexar.org; mmedina@dot.state.tx.us; rpych@attcenter.com; John.Clamp@sanantonio.gov; jennifer.v.ramos@sanantonio.gov; reed.williams@sanantonio.gov; mayorriley@hotmail.com; weepersr@satxrr.com; Majed.Al-Ghafry@sanantonio.gov; garriaga@aacog.com; chico.rodriguez@co.bexar.tx.us; csmith1@dot.state.tx.us; david.leibowitz@house.state.tx.us; jeff.wentworth@senate.state.tx.us; susanfarris@bexar.org; ray.lopez@sanantonio.gov; mike.frisbie@sanantonio.gov; mary.briseno@viainfo.net; keith.parker@viainfo.net; vboyer@samcoinc.org; dlann@dot.state.tx.us; kirk.fauver@fhwa.dot.gov; jimrreed@swbell.net; ksb314@sbcglobal.net

4)      We will continue to provide updates as this issue evolves.

A small minority has dominated this issue for too long, with significant consequences for San Antonio’s quality of life and economic future.   It is time to change that.

Thank you in advance for your assistance in this effort.

Victor M. Boyer
Executive Director
San Antonio Mobility Coalition, Inc. (SAMCo)
13526 George Road #107
San Antonio, TX 78230
(210) 688-4407 – Phone
(210) 688-4507 – Fax

Our response to this vitriolic email from SAMCo:
There are glaring inaccuracies in Vic Boyer’s email (above). First of all, the non-toll plan is not Commissioner Adkisson’s or my plan, it’s TxDOT’s plan promised to the public in hearings in 2001. It doesn’t risk stimulus money, and, in fact, the RMA seeking an environmental exemption on the interchange and it’s failure to coordinate with the City of Hollywood Park risks losing stimulus money far more than shifting pots of money ever could. They’ve been warned from day one that how ever they design the interchange will pre-determine what it connects to in the future (either a future toll road or non-toll lanes), and will prejudice both the 281 and 1604 environmental studies (that require all alternatives to be studied). The RMA’s vacillation on the promise to build the entire interchange non-toll, only to abandon the northbound ramps, makes their intent to impose tolls in the future on 281 abundantly clear.

The non-toll amendment before the MPO only affects 281 north and the west side of 1604 (by Braun Rd) and uses money already allocated to those roadways and DOES NOT take money from other projects. San Antonio can expect about 10% of the Prop 12 monies to come to our region. TxDOT is trying to advance Wurzbach Pkwy for that money, which is far less congested than both 281 and 1604 west. By TxDOT’s own admission, if a reasonable source of revenue can be identified (in this case Prop 12 and Texas Mobility Funds which have already been allocated to 281/1604), it’s sufficient to place it into the short range and long range plans at the MPO.

The eventual pot of money may change. In addition, the Texas Mobility Funds DO NOT REQUIRE leveraging or tolling. The Transportation Commission’s own Minute Order shows in black and white that Texas Mobility Funds can be used for FREEways and that it’s not necessary to toll a road to get access to them. It’s also possible to meet the bogus leveraging requirement for the Texas Mobility Funds with a different source of revenue (instead of Prop 14 bonds), which Commissioner Adkisson is working on (with next to no cooperation from any of the agencies).

By comparison, virtually every segment of the current toll plans are not funded either, and make financial assumptions that cannot be substantiated. To assume massive leveraged debt to fix the entire northside at one time is reckless. This proposed toll system is unsustainable and requires MULTI-BILLIONS to be sucked out of our local economy, money that now goes to support local restaurants, stores, hotels, movie theaters will now have to go to transportation costs that few in San Antonio can afford. If they could, the toll road would pay for itself and not need to be subsidized with public money!
San Antonio cannot afford the interest on $900 million of debt for the 1604 toll road and the $864 million in interest just for the 281 toll project (not counting the interest on the other loans proposed to subsidize the 281 project). I’ll be 90 years old when these tollways would be be paid off, if they’re EVER paid for before going into default (which just happened in South Carolina). What on earth are we doing? In addition, the non-compete agreements that prohibit or penalize the region for expanding or building any new free lanes surrounding the tollways for up to 50 years at a time is plain malfeasance. That means Stone Oak Pkwy, Bulverde Rd., Blanco Rd., Braun Rd., Shaenfield, Culebra, Bander, etc.

The MPO is an equal player in transportation decision-making along with the FHWA and Transportation Commission. Though under Rick Perry Transportation Commission decisions have become highly politicized and bullying and threats have ruled the day, ultimately, these roads cannot be tolled if the MPO votes to make them non-tolled. Let’s not forget Perry is a heated primary battle and has already retreated on the Trans Texas Corridor because “there was no political support for it.” Well, clearly there has been no political support for tolling our existing freeways in San Antonio either.

So it’s pure hogwash to say the non-toll options will cause the sky to fall. This is pure politics. We can have an endless impasse and get nothing done, or we can move this community forward.
Contact your city, county, and state elected officials and MPO Board members NOW to tell them to VOTE NO TO TOLLS and fix our freeways without TOLLS!

One Reply to “Hogs at the trough lobby MPO to keep 281, 1604 toll roads”

  1. Prayer Warrior in SanAntonio

    Proverb 21:30 comes to mind here; There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against us…. because Isaiah 52:12 tells you who our REAR GUARD is, therefore, there will be no toll roads. Good prevails against evil, always……that’s just how God works.

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