Leon Valley and residents in the Bandera Road corridor from 410 to 1604 are beginning to awake to the very REAL threat of a TxDOT/RMA steamroller. We already know what the Transportation Commission’s marching orders are from their Minute Order passed Dec. 18, 2003 that states they’ll toll everything they can get their hands on, including elevated lanes in existing right of way, above existing businesses, and near existing residences. But, unfortunately, a whole new area of town is having to stave off their own government’s tax and land grab (under the guise of congestion relief). At least our grassroots group of concerned citizens is poised and ready to help from lessons learned on the 281/1604 project. Be sure to attend the May 17 Toll Road Forum that’s mentioned in the article below.
Just a few short months on the job and Mr. Leroy Alloway of the RMA is already good at misleading the public about their intent to toll Bandera Rd when he states, “there aren’t any foregone conclusions” to toll. Right, that’s why Bandera Rd. is an official project of the tolling authority instead of TxDOT! How refreshing to see a Chamber of Commerce that actually represents the best interests of the business community…way to go Leon Valley Chamber!
Residents address flyover lanes
By Lety Laurel
Express-News Staff Writer
LEON VALLEY — If built, overhead lanes along Bandera Road would physically and psychologically divide the city, kill area businesses and create noise, light and air pollution, many residents said during a specially called meeting April 25 at the Leon Valley Conference Center.
It was the residents’ turn to discuss congestion along Bandera Road at the meeting that drew about 150 people, despite A Night in Old San Antonio and a Spurs playoff game held the same evening.
Although a couple of people spoke in support of overhead lanes to reduce traffic on city streets, the majority spoke against the proposal and encouraged the city and officials with Texas Department of Transportation and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority — who were in the audience but not there to speak — to investigate other congestion-relieving options.
The city will hold another meeting on the proposed elevated roadway 7 p.m. May 17 at the Leon Valley Community Center, 6427 Evers. The Regional Community Meeting will be sponsored by state Rep. Joaquin Castro, San Antonio District 7 Councilwoman Elena Guajardo and the City of Leon Valley and will draw residents from both cities, RMA officials and representatives from the San Antonio Toll Party.
“The problems we have on Bandera are bad but they are not 24 hours a day,” resident Shep Howson said. “We have peak times as every city does. Elevated roadways, to me, would be unsightly and a hideous thing. Where we have traffic at certain peak periods, elevated roadways would be here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Resident Mike Davis said that due to TxDOT’s current project to place elevated connectors from Bandera to Loop 410, which will end at Rue Francois near Wurzbach, there already is going to be a divide in the city.
He said he believes that most of the 59,410 vehicles that travel daily along Bandera Road drive through the city and are not locals.
“These people should be able to drive through Leon Valley on a flyover so as not to impede our local traffic and relieve us of the traffic burden,” he said. If that is done, he added, “People will be more comfortable shopping in Leon Valley.”
As for pollution, “When vehicles are running at their optimum and they are not idling at a red light where residents are breathing in their exhaust fumes and their pollution, I say let them run at their optimum … out of our city, and that way we don’t have to breathe their pollution,” he said.
Other residents suggested synchronizing traffic lights, extending Bandera Road from three lanes to five in each direction, converting the median to a high-occupancy-vehicle lane and perhaps building ramps just over intersections.
Resident Anita Eggert said she lives near Bandera Road and already hears the sounds of traffic through her windows. That noise will be made worse with a highway, she said.
A simple solution, she said, could be to increase VIA bus service.
I think there are other out-of-the-box things we can look at other than building more roads,” she said.
In January, TxDOT began the construction project on elevated ramps from Loop 410 to Bandera Road to relieve congestion at Wurzbach and Bandera roads and Bandera and Loop 410.
But in the previous months, the Leon Valley City Council passed a resolution asking TxDOT and the RMA to study extending the project from 410 through the city to relieve congestion and to minimize impacts to existing businesses along Bandera Road. It also asked authorities to study ways to minimize changes to business access and assess the need for additional rights of way.
In February, Mayor Chris Riley submitted 18 questions to the RMA about the possible impacts of building an elevated toll road, asking everything from the potential impact on businesses during and after construction to potential graffiti problems that might come with the highway.
In a March 17 letter, RMA executive director Terry Brechtel said many things still are being studied and promised to investigate possible impacts the project might have on the city’s economy, businesses and environment, among other things.
She also made it clear that all options will be studied, including a no-build option.
Riley said the letter didn’t answer much, but she was relieved by the no-build option.
“None of my questions were answered because they’re being studied,” Riley said. “I’m a little antsy and I want them answered as soon as possible, but one thing that came out of the letter was a no-build option…. That was the only thing that was definitive.”
Leroy Alloway, public information manager for the RMA, said the letter couldn’t conclusively answer most questions because nothing has been decided.
“There are no foregone conclusions in the direction this project may and may not take,” he said. “Until we go out and get community input and do the process we need to take, we won’t have answers. We’re not going in there saying we know the solution. We’re going in there saying we think there’s a problem here.”
At the meeting, Phillip Manea, president of the Leon Valley Chamber of Commerce, agreed that there is a congestion problem along Bandera Road, but he noted that there are similar problems all over San Antonio. He urged the council to tread carefully.
He said businesses are concerned that they’d be too close to the highway, that noise created by an elevated highway would make it difficult to conduct business and that stores close to the roadway would be virtually invisible. He predicated that businesses would lose their customer base, face lowered property values and wouldn’t survive the construction period.
“This is quite possibly the biggest decision that Leon Valley has been faced with the past 20 years,” he said. “Whatever we decide to do will affect us forever.”
Leon Valley questions
Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley sent 18 questions to the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority regarding toll roads. Following is a sampling of questions (in bold) and answers that were provided by RMA executive director Terry Brechtel.
What will be the impacts on traffic flows on adjacent streets?
The impact … has not been determined at this time. Without having a preferred alternative design the Alamo RMA is unable to provide a detailed response on this question.
Is it realistic to create a pleasant shopping experience in a healthy retail area in the shadow of an elevated highway?
The Alamo RMA staff is currently investigating this issue and will provide further information to you in the near future.
Will the elevated roadway add graffiti “tagging” opportunities?
Alamo RMA will be evaluating anti graffiti coatings for structures to minimize “tagging” and will be partnering with local public safety agencies to help provide enforcement on this issue.