RMA comes unhinged at concerned citizens over interchange

Link to article here. There is NO new lawsuit or a threat of one. All that AGUA/TURF did was send a letter to the Federal Highway Administration questioning the “clearance” the RMA claims to have for this 5 level interchange. The interchange is a red herring and an excuse NOT to fix 281 north. Read more here.

Suit might block use of stimulus money
By Patrick Driscoll
Express-News
03/13/2009

The $140 million in federal and state funds allocated for the building of long-awaited ramps linking North Loop 1604 and U.S. 281 could end up being sent back if two sides in a lawsuit can’t find common ground.The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority hopes to use $80 million in federal stimulus funds and $60 million from state bonds — dubbed “money from heaven” by one local official — to start construction on the four ramps within a year. The ramps on the loop’s south side wouldn’t be tolled, according to plans.

But lawyers for Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom are poised to challenge federal environmental clearance for the five-level interchange, saying there likely would be significant changes in traffic, suburban growth and Edwards Aquifer water quality.

The groups filed a lawsuit last year to demand a detailed environmental study of planned toll lanes on 47 miles of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604, and the Alamo RMA later decided to do so. The interchange should be part of that study, plaintiffs’ attorney Bill Bunch said Thursday.

“We certainly don’t think you should sacrifice San Antonio’s sole source of drinking water to do that,” he said. “We still have a lawsuit pending. It would probably be raised in that context.”

If the Alamo RMA were forced to probe the interchange’s impacts, work could be held up three or more years, and that means the federal stimulus funds could go unused.

“It’s not a lawsuit yet, but there’s a general concern,” RMA spokesman Leroy Alloway said. “What’s going to happen next, that’s the big question.”

Bunch said he asked the Alamo RMA to discuss less invasive improvements to the two roads but hasn’t heard back.

“We want to avoid the litigation as much as anybody,” he said. “But there’s been no response to that.”

Alloway said he hasn’t heard of such a request, but negotiations aren’t likely anyway.

“We’re not willing to negotiate out the environmental protections necessary for our community,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Alamo RMA on Wednesday launched an effort — called 4-1-1 on 281 — to engage residents along U.S. 281 in dialogue. Officials also mentioned AGUA and TURF skepticism as a potential bogeyman to the non-toll interchange.

“We knew we needed a fresh approach,” Chairman Bill Thornton said in a statement. “The public is frustrated by the delay in construction and they want answers.”

Go to www.411on281.com for more about 4-1-1 on 281.

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