No takers on US 281 comparison study

After last October’s contentious MPO meeting where a motion to remove all toll options for US 281 and Loop 1604 was voted down, MPO policy board members voted to have¬†a study done comparing the toll and non-toll options for 281.¬†

Nobody wanted the job.

According to news reports, there were no responses to a¬†RFP that the MPO put out for the study last month, which was earlier estimated to cost about $250,000.¬† Apparently either local engineering¬†firms were already working on one of the environmental studies for 281 or 1604 (thus representing a conflict of interest), had no free clock cycles to do the work,¬†or just weren’t interested in taking¬†what could¬†potentially be a¬†politically-charged hot potato.¬† As a result, the study has been put on the back-burner for now and officials say they’ll probably wait for the results of the comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) for 281 that’s¬†currently under way.¬† It’s a shame that the side-by-side study fell through; it would have put a lot of the misinformation propagated by toll opponents¬†to rest once-and-for-all.¬† And as expected, the local toll conspiracy theorists are already making inane claims that there are nefarious reasons that nobody bid to do the study.

Meanwhile, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority hinted recently that three options were front-runners in the¬†281 EIS: a new expressway featuring toll-free expressway lanes with tolled “managed” lanes¬†down the middle¬†(like those built on the Katy Freeway in Houston recently and proposed for Loop 1604 North); an elevated expressway also¬†with both tolled managed lanes and non-toll lanes; and a scaled-down, toll-free overpasses plan.¬† The latter would have the smallest footprint and would provide the least additional capacity, but would also be the cheapest.¬† However, without a toll element, funding would have to be found for it.

But stranger things have happened.


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