30 Sep 2011, 10:39am
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Ribbon cut on Loop 1604 project in NE San Antonio

Local TxDOT officials joined with several dignitaries yesterday to cut the ribbon on a project that widened Loop 1604 near Randolph AFB.  The 17 month, $6.6 million project upgraded 2.5 miles of Loop 1604 from a two-lane “farm” road to a four-lane divided highway.  The project came in on-time and under budget.

Speakers at the ribbon-cutting included US Representative Henry Cuellar.  Cuellar helped secure the federal economic stimulus funding to get the project off the ground.

This section of the loop has been in the news recently.  A project to continue the expansion from its current terminus at Lower Seguin Road to I-10 is planned to start next year.  However, county officials had briefly considered transferring funding from that project to construct the northern set of ramps at US 281 and Loop 1604.  An alternative source of funding was found, however, thus allowing the widening project to continue as planned.

It’s worth noting that this expansion mirrors a similar expansion done on Loop 1604 West nearly two decades ago.  Road improvements tend to be incremental or evolutionary.  The road system San Antonio has today didn’t just drop out of the sky one day.  The project dedicated yesterday upgraded a congested and dangerous two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway with traffic signals.  This configuration is a substantial improvement over the previous road and is more than adequate for the current needs and for those in the foreseeable future, just as the expansion of Loop 1604 south of Braun Road was back in the ’90s.  Will traffic growth eventually render this roadway obsolete?   Maybe.  But building a full-fledged expressway at this location now is unnecessary and would have been an injudicious use of scarce funding, just like doing so out on Loop 1604 West back in the ’90s would have been.

MPO approves long-range plan; Tommy starts to get it

As reported here last week, the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) policy board was scheduled to vote on the “Mobility 2035” long-range regional plan yesterday.  Toll opponents were angry because the plan included numerous projects in three corridors (I-35 North, Loop 1604, and I-10 West) pigeon-holed as toll-concession projects, also known as Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) projects.  As I explained previously, because current projections show little to no gas-tax funds being available during the time span of the plan, those projects had to have creative funding “placeholders” assigned to them in order to continue planning work on them, those placeholders being CDAs.

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The man who doesn’t get it

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “the man who gets it”, that man being state Senator John Carona of Dallas, who understands our current transportation funding crisis enough to risk political suicide by suggesting an increase in the state’s gas tax to fix it (the correct solution in my not-so-humble opinion.)  Today, I’m going to write about the person who has shown once again to be deserving of the title of “the man who just doesn’t get it”: Tommy Adkisson, the current chairman of the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) policy board.

As you may recall, Adkisson was the official instigator of a vote in October to drop the toll option from the MPO’s plans regarding future US 281 and Loop 1604 projects.  That proposal went down in flames when the MPO board voted 13-5 against it, mainly because it had no objective engineering study to support it, something even an amateur elected official would realize is essential to substantiate your case.  Even the San Antonio Express-News editorial board labeled his actions “erratic and ill-considered”.  I, however, was willing to let Tommy off the hook for this boondoggle since it was obvious that outspoken toll opponent Terri Hall was the real culprit pulling the strings behind the scenes and I believed he just didn’t understand what he was getting himself into.  His declaration after the vote that he was done with toll road issues and wanted to move on to more substantive discussions, such as mass transit, also led me to believe that he was sincerely jaded on the whole 281 debacle.

But obviously not.

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Why the MPO vote to remove tolls doesn’t matter

Tommy Adkisson

Tommy Adkisson

The San Antonio-Bexar County MPO is scheduled to vote next Monday on whether or not to remove the toll option from the US 281 and Loop 1604 expansion projects.  This plan was put forth by new MPO Chairman Tommy Adkisson, Bexar County’s Precinct 4 Commissioner and an ardent toll road opponent.  Make no mistake—his plan is actually the brainchild of staunch toll road critic Terri Hall, the self-appointed director of Texans United for Freedom and Reform (TURF), and is based on the theory that she could just take plans and estimates from 2001, add the inflation factor since then, and have the magic estimate of what it would cost to build the original toll-free plan today.  This elementary formula skips a number of important steps and omits several ancillary items that were not included in those original estimates, such as design work, right-of-way acquisition, and utility relocation.

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