21 Aug 2011, 9:13pm
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San Antonio rail controversy gets ugly

Arguing about light rail is rich with possibilities.

And it’s so easy to¬†galvanize¬†issues: Do we spend¬†hard-earned taxes¬†on¬†transit or roads? Do we¬†revive¬†downtown cores or unclog¬†asphalt arteries to suburbs? What neighborhoods should get the¬†coveted rails or lanes?

The right strategic mix is the sane solution, but agreeing on the right blend can drive decision-makers batty. To wit, the 2000 light-rail election in which VIA Metropolitan Transit was buried first by critics and then by voters. The 2-to-1 defeat silenced local rail advocates for almost a decade. 

But now VIA’s latest rail¬†plan ‚Ästa $180 million project to build a 2.7-mile east-west streetcar line through downtown as well as construct two major transit centers and two suburban bus park-and-rides ‚Äď seems to be careening around the¬†same¬†pitfalls.¬†

The heat turned up last week¬†after two businessmen, Marty Wender and Mike Novak, resigned as co-chairs from¬†VIA’s streetcar committee. That’s¬†because the agency moved forward on the rail¬†plan¬†without first consulting¬†the committee.¬†

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff got on the radio and¬†called the resignations a ‚Äúrather a chicken way to do business,” according to the Express-News.

Today, Elaine Wolff of Plaza de Armas took a long wade toward the deep end. Without giving away too much, players ranging from city, county and business leaders are struggling over whether they can sell the plan to taxpayers, whether a sales tax that was going to roads should now be shifted to transit and, rather telling, whether a north-south rail route might be getting short-shrift.

To get details on¬†the behind-the-scenes¬†fisticuffs,¬†you need to read Elaine’s story¬†at Plaza de Armas,¬†which is a subscription news service:

Also, here’s¬†the Express-News story:


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