Trying to have it both ways…
“It is not going to be a toll project,” RMA Chair Bill Thornton told the Express-News. On the SAME day, Thornton told WOAI radio, “One of the contingencies that TxDOT has tied to that money, though, is that it be done as a toll project.”
It’s no wonder the public can’t get a straight answer from these agencies…perhaps the old adage fits here: if their lips are moving, they’re lying!
THEN, in the same Express News article…
“…the ramps would link to both the existing freeway lanes and eventually the toll lanes.” – Clay Smith, TxDOT
So which is it, fellas? You can’t both be right! A skeptical public knows better, you will toll these roads even if they’re paid for unless lawmakers rein it in!
Crammed 1604 point might not need tolls
By Patrick Driscoll
Within four years, motorists could be whooshing over long-awaited interchange ramps at U.S. 281 and North Loop 1604, past what today is one of San Antonio’s worst traffic snarls.
And thanks to a federal jolt of money coming this way, the ramps would not be tolled, as recent plans have called for.
“Shock of shocks. It is not going to be a toll project,” said Bill Thornton, chairman of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, an agency initially created five years ago to build toll road projects. “We look for all methods of financing that we can find.”
The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees how federal transportation dollars are spent in Bexar County, voted unanimously Monday to use local and state funds from the $787 billion stimulus package to build four of the eight planned interchange connectors.
The $140 million project tops a list of seven recommendations being forwarded to the state, including an $8 million plan to reconfigure U.S. 281 intersections north of Loop 1604 to temporarily loosen traffic knots until a better fix is found.
The four interchange ramps at Loop 1604 target the junction’s heaviest traffic, connecting northbound U.S. 281 to both directions of the loop and linking both directions of the loop to southbound U.S. 281. Construction could start within a year and finish by the end of 2012, with the improvements carrying an estimated 50,000 vehicles a day after opening.
Drivers would get to skip over the notorious traffic signals and frontage roads that tie up traffic today.
“It’s horrible,” said Rick Garza, who sometimes fights the traffic while delivering meals. “I know we can’t work miracles, but something can help.”
Critics of plans to toll 47 miles of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 on the North Side remain leery despite the funding twist.
“While we welcome any nontoll funding to finally complete these projects, we have to ask, what will this interchange connect with? Toll lanes or nontoll lanes?” said Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.
Texas Department of Transportation planner Clay Smith said the ramps would link to both the existing freeway lanes and eventually the toll lanes.
The MPO will get only $43 million in stimulus money for roads but expects to get some of the state’s $1.5 billion share. The Texas Transportation Commission will hand out its goodies Thursday.
“We don’t know what they’re going to do,” MPO Director Sid Martinez said.
Based on past funding, San Antonio could see about $80 million of the commission’s stimulus dollars. The MPO is hoping to get at least $130 million from the state and match it with $20 million, enough to pay for the interchange ramps and to widen Loop 1604 at Randolph AFB to four lanes from FM 78 to Graytown Road.
That would leave $22 million in local stimulus funds to be allocated later.
The local planning board also submitted a best-case scenario, in case the state gives $237 million to San Antonio. The MPO would then put up all its $43 million, and the to-do list would grow to add, from highest priority to least:
36th Street: Add lanes from U.S. 90 to Billy Mitchell Road — $16.5 million.
Interstate 10: Add four lanes from North Loop 1604 to Huebner Road — $40 million.
Wurzbach Parkway: Build four lanes from Blanco Road to West Avenue — $32 million.
Wurzbach Parkway: Build four lanes from Jones Maltsberger Road to Wetmore Road — $33 million.
U.S. 281: Reconfigure intersections north of Loop 1604 — $8 million.
Though a suggested redesign of U.S. 281, to eliminate cross traffic and rely on added U-turns to ease traffic, came in last on the MPO’s list, the idea has ardent champions.
“The super street must be funded somehow,” said City Councilwoman Diane Cibrian, who sits on the MPO board and is running for mayor.
Thornton: TxDOT Demands Toll on 1604-281 Project