One toll project defeated, but misplaced priorities prevent non-toll fix to most congested roadways

It’s a HUGE VICTORY for taxpayers that one Bexar County toll project, Wurzbach Parkway’s completion, has been nixed and reverted back to a non-toll project. However, putting Wurzbach Pkwy’s completion above the fix to the unbearable congestion nightmare on US 281 and the west and east sides of Loop 1604 is inexplicable. On October 26, the local MPO had the chance to fix the west side of 1604 non-toll using Prop 12 bonds and to revert 281 back to a non-toll project using existing monies. The MPO voted it down 13-5, Councilman Ray Lopez and Commissioner Chico Rodriguez who represent that area of 1604 and Senator Jeff Wentworth and Commissioner Kevin Wolff who represent the 281 corridor were among the board members to vote down the non-toll amendments.

Weeks later, TxDOT and the RMA railroaded the Wurzbach Pkwy project through the Transportation Commission and removed Wurzbach Pkwy from the toll plans without even coming to the MPO for approval and without a word of public testimony asking for it. Contrast that to the 281 and 1604 amendments before the MPO on October 26 that would have made them non-toll projects and reduced the cost using the same arguments TxDOT used to get Wurzbach approved at reduced cost, that the MPO rejected despite more than 500 attendees and FIVE AND HALF HOURS of public testimony demanding the non-toll fix to these roadways. Something is seriously wrong with this picture!
The article below references a letter sent to Chairman Joe Pickett by MPO Chair Commissioner Tommy Adkisson but grossly misrepresents the intent of the letter. Read the letter. for yourself. What continues to fuel inaccurate assessments of all these letters flying around of late is that no one seems to be reading them. Adkisson was objecting to TxDOT’s claim that it had come to the MPOs to get an approved list of projects for Prop 12 funding when it had not.

TxDOT acted alone, so did the RMA by removing Wurzbach from its toll plans and passing a resolution to fix it non-toll with Prop 12 bonds. Adkisson was sticking-up for the MPO’s proper role in transportation decision-making, and from what I can tell, that’s been the reason for most of his letters. So that was the rub, yet the article makes it appear Adkisson was blocking money coming to our region when nothing could be further from the truth. Had TxDOT come to the MPO as they are supposed to do and as they told the legislature and Commission they had, there wouldn’t be any question about the MPO’s priorities because the board would have adopted an official list.

At the end of the day, it’s TxDOT who acted unilaterally to use-up the Prop 12 bonds on everything BUT a non-toll fix to our most congested roadways, 281 and 1604. TxDOT needs unbearable congestion in order to entice people to pay a toll to get out of it.  TxDOT just gave us another lesson in railroading 101.

Web Posted: 11/19/2009 5:02 CST

Wurzbach Parkway funds OK’d

By Josh Baugh – Express-News
The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday approved about $2 billion in highway projects across the state, including $130 million to complete the final three segments of Wurzbach Parkway on the city’s North Side.

Envisioned as a major thoroughfare connecting Interstate 35 to the Medical Center, the parkway has languished for years because of a lack of funding. But the state allocation will allow the Texas Department of Transportation to complete the final 4.8 miles of roadway.

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff said the area was lucky to receive the money during an era of declining funding for road projects.

“This is a huge, huge win for us,” Wolff said. “It’s about time that we finish a project that’s 20 years old.”

Statewide, more than 850 projects worth $8.9 billion were submitted, according to a TxDOT press release. The commission approved 74 projects, including six on Interstate 35 in Central Texas worth about $1 billion.

Not everyone agrees with the transportation commission’s priorities.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who also is chairman of the local Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the commission’s funding allocations were “incomprehensible.”

“I still think U.S. 281 North is easily the No. 1 project in Bexar County that should get our focus,” he said. “But I’m happy to have any money come to Bexar County.”

Read the rest of the story here.