Vehement opposition to tolls at Bandera Rd public meeting finally gets some fair press

Express-News traffic blog here. Comments on blog are interesting, some even supportive. Link below is same article, without the comments.

Express-News ARTICLE here.

Get the Toll Party analysis of the meeting here.

Leon Valley neighbors rap tolls along Bandera Road
By Patrick Driscoll
Express-News Staff Writer

Officials eyeing toll lanes along Bandera Road could be hitting a roadblock in Leon Valley, after a public meeting in which almost all speakers expressed their opposition.

The Thursday meeting at Marshall High School to kick off an environmental assessment for the toll lanes drew about 450 people, the most yet for a local toll meeting.

Of the more than two-dozen speakers, all but one was against elevated toll lanes over Bandera Road between loops 410 and 1604.

Former Leon Valley Councilman Darby Riley — whose wife, Chris, is mayor — said it’s obvious people are “pretty unanimous” against the toll lanes and suggested organizing with neighborhoods along Bandera Road to the north of the city.

“We would be interested in working with neighborhood associations, North Side chamber or whoever else can organize along this corridor,” he said.

Speakers asked the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which is studying the proposed toll lanes, for alternatives such as better traffic light coordination, reversible lanes, rapid bus transit and a parkway design with added lanes and better pedestrian and bicycle amenities.

They also voiced concerns that competing free roads would be neglected as a way to drive traffic to toll lanes. And they said tolls are a big-business scheme to make money rather than solve traffic congestion.

A businessman and pastor said he is grieved by what he sees as a stark divide between powers pushing tolls and taxpayers who’ll foot the bill.

“Something’s really wrong here,” he said.

Speakers also complained that the mobility authority was not up front enough about tolls being the only funding option on the table and accused the agency of conducting the first half of the meeting as a workshop so some of the crowd would be chased away before the comment period.

Mobility Authority Director Terry Brechtel, a veteran of many years of high-dollar projects and political winds whipping through San Antonio’s City Council chambers, was unflappable and acknowledged a daunting task ahead.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” she said. “It’s not surprising at all.”

Brechtel, a former city manager, said she was heartened by comments from the workshop because participants said something has to be done about growing congestion.

Options to deal or not deal with traffic loads that could double in 25 years will be laid out to the public — and so will ways to pay for them, Brechtel said.