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.

The dissection of the nuts-and-bolts, apples-to-oranges issues here could go on ad nauseam.  But in the end, none of it really matters because Mr. Adkisson and TURF seemed to have overlooked this one incredibly significant point: it won’t matter if the MPO votes to remove tolls.  Here’s why:

The term of the MPO chairperson is two years.  Therefore, Mr. Adkisson’s term will end in 2011.  Despite what TURF wants to believe, no capacity improvements can be made to the US 281 corridor until an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed, a circumstance that is the result of TURF’s previous lawsuits and has been confirmed several times by the Federal Highway Administration.  An EIS for the US 281 corridor won’t likely be completed until 2012 at the earliest, which is after Mr. Adkisson’s term has ended.  Therefore, a future chairperson could just as easily move to have the tolling option restored.  Admittedly, it’s always harder to get something changed than to leave the status quo alone, but if funding options remain as they are now, a future board will likely be receptive to changing it back if they need to.

Ergo, all this really is is an exercise in politics, ego, and bravado.


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