RMA polls drivers on tolls for Wurzbach

Link to San Antonio Business Journal articlehere.

Some of the things the RMA says in this article are misleading. Right off the bat, it states the purpose of this survey is to demonstrate the need to finish Wurzbach. Well, yeah, everyone already knows it needs to be done. The funding has been there for over a decade. The plan has been in place for many decades, some say 30 years. The reality is, they want to add an interchange at Wurzbach and 281 and since that’s “new,” transportation officials can’t wait to toll it! The most important point for you to remember in this article is this one: “(tolling) gives San Antonio (a) revenue stream for the life of the project and beyond to maintain it.” That’s right, that’s why we’re going to stop this. It’s a whole new PERMANENT tax increase. These tolls aren’t going to go away…the Governor’s office even admits it. They want tolls to become a way of life, a whole new expense absorbed into the family budget (at a 500% increase in some cases). A recent study showed how housing and transportation are the two top expenses for taxpayers, combined taking up 52% of your income. Transportation alone took 19% of one’s income and that’s before gas jumped to nearly $3 a gallon! More on this to come…

Perhaps what’s more insulting to our intelligence is that they honestly think they’re going to “educate” the public into accepting tolls. They honestly think we just need more information and we’ll LOVE ‘EM! We already know everything we need to know, and WE DON’T WANT YOUR TOLLS, NO MATTER HOW YOU PACKAGE THEM! Never believe these people when they say the decisions to do this aren’t final. In their minds it absolutely is going to happen. Just attend a few tolling authority meetings and you’ll see what I mean. That’s where the voters come in…clean house in Austin in November, and we’ll get a Governor who can STOP this once and for all! Candidate for governor Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn believes in giving Texans a statewide initiative/referendum process (read more here)…she’s committed to allowing Texans to vote on these toll projects, unlike Perry and his special interest machine.

Transportation authority takes survey at proposed tollway site
by Tamarind Phinisee
San Antonio Business Journal
June 23, 2006

The locally based Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, the agency tasked with accelerating area transportation projects, is conducting a survey at one of its proposed tollway sites.

The purpose of this survey is to demonstrate the need for an east-west connector for Wurzbach Parkway.

The survey, called The Origin and Destination study say AlamoRMA officials, is part of a Level 2 traffic and revenue study. Level 2 traffic and revenue studies help transportation agencies determine things such as how often residents use certain roads, why they use them and at what part of town they begin and end their trip.

Following the completion of the entire Level 2 study, the agency will move on to the highest and final level of the study, Level 3, which will show what types of revenue could be generated on a particular roadway based on traffic volume and the roadway itself.

The agency received development authority from the Texas Transportation Commission in November 2005 to study three tollway projects. These three projects are: on the Wurzbach Parkway at the U.S. Highway 281 interchange; State Highway 16 between Loop 410 and Loop 1604; and Interstate Highway 35, from the Bexar/Guadalupe county line to the central business district.

The survey by AlamoRMA involves personnel out in the field questioning travelers at redlights regarding their travel routes, as well as cables across streets near Wurzbach to count the number of cars on the roadways.

The streets currently being surveyed are: Wetmore Road at Thousand Oaks Drive; Starcrest Drive at Jones Maltsberger Road; Bitters Road at West Avenue; Blanco Road at West; and Northwest Military Drive and Lockhill Selma Road.

The survey is important, officials say, because of their plans to build a 1.7-mile portion of the Wurzbach Parkway extension over U.S. Highway 281 — from West to Jones Maltsberger.

However, Terry Brechtel, the agency’s executive director, stresses that no final decision has been made on the proposed tollways, and that the survey simply gives the agency more concrete information.

“You want to have a toll revenue (plan) saying this is how much we estimate the rate to be, these are how many users this is going to have,” Brechtel says.

Leroy Alloway, spokesman for the agency, adds that design of any proposed tollway projects will not be completed until after mandated public meetings and hearings.

Following that procedure, says Pat Irwin, director of engineering and operations, AlamoRMA should have a 30 percent design schematic by next summer, with an additional year or year and a half needed to complete the necessary design work.

The Wurzbach/281 interchange, meanwhile, would connect with two segments that are to be built by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

These other two segments are: Blanco to West Avenue and Jones Maltsberger/Wetmore to Starcrest.

“When completed, those three segments will finalize the Wurzbach Parkway project,” Alloway says.

Laura Lopez, a spokeswoman for the TxDOT San Antonio District, says that a timeline on the construction is not yet available.

Starter system
Looking at the big picture, the AlamoRMA — working TxDOT — is engaged in evaluating an approximately 70-mile network of added capacity tolled lanes. Construction could begin on the first segments of these lanes as early as 2007, transportation officials say.

In addition, ongoing public hearings are now being held about the possibility of adding toll lanes to Loop 1604, U.S. Highway 281, IH-35 and Wurzbach Parkway at the U.S. Highway 281 exchange.

Funding and education
Lack of funding has been the roadblock to construction of needed roadways in San Antonio, Brechtel says, and has led to the need for an alternative means of paying for roadway construction — specifically tollways.

The AlamoRMA was formed after transportation studies showed that traditional funding could not keep up with the construction of roadways needed in the San Antonio area. Indeed, the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2004 identified an $8 billion shortfall in highway funding for Bexar County’s growing traffic needs and determined that a tollway system was the only funding mechanism that could clear the area’s congested traffic corridors. That led to the formation of the AlamoRMA.

Brechtel says one of her primary missions is to show the public that an alternative means of funding roadways is a necessity. In addition, she says she is tasked with educating an unfamiliar public how tollways operate, and to alleviate misconceptions.

“Where we sit today is educating the public on why the toll revenue concept is important …,” Brechtel says. “What tolling brings is not only the revenue to build the project, but it also gives San Antonio revenue stream for the life of the project and beyond to maintain it.”

If some of the AlamoRMA’s planned projects were funded the traditional way, Irwin says, it could take 25 to 30 years before there were enough dollars for some of the projects.

Brechtel says the city’s growth rate and increase in jobs throughout the city make the case for tollways even stronger — citing Toyota, Washington Mutual and planned job increases at Fort Sam Houston.

In addition, she says, Northside Independent School District is forecasting phenomenal growth — predicting an increase in enrollment to about 100,000 students within the decade.

More information can be found at the AlamoRMA Web site at: www.alamorma.org.