Supertoll plan approved by Alamo MPO

Link to article here.

Supertolls Plan Advances at MPO
By Jim Forsyth
WOAI Radio
April 29, 2014

The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved a long-term 'Transportation Improvement Program' which includes proposals for toll lanes and so called 'managed lanes' on Loop 1604, as well as on Highway 281 and Interstate 10 outside 1604, 1200 WOAI news reports.

The $1.7 billion provides funding for bicycles, pedestrians, establishes bus and carpool lanes, and encourages alternatives to the single person in a vehicle model of commuting in metro San Antonio.

"Appropriate transportation planning, recognizing the mobility needs and identifying the available resources, allow for the maintenance and improvement of our transportation system, therefore affecting our economy and quality of life," the long term transportation plan, which runs through 2018, states.

The main focus of the plan includes a $70 million plan to expand Interstate 10 from Boerne Stage Road to Loop 1604, expanding the highway from 4 to 6 lanes by adding two managed lanes.

The plan also calls for $458 million to widen Highway 281 from Loop 1604 to the Bexar-Comal County Line.  The project includes a non toll northern interchange at 281 and 1604, which is paid for with city money from the 2012 bond issue, as well as four new managed lanes from Stone Oak Parkway to the Comal County line, and making 281 a six lane expressway from 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway, with the addition of two managed lanes.

Plans are to begin construction on these projects in 2015.

"Managed lanes' would involve tolls for regular drivers, but would be free for busses and 'approved' car pools.

But the toll proposal sparked a lot of controversy.  MPO member Tommy Adkisson says toll roads in urban areas, where people drive to and from school, work, and the store, and will lead to an increase in prices for all services.

"Those who service the various residents who come out to do plumbing work, or carpentry or lawn services," will have to charge more, Adkisson said.

Toll road supporters point out that there will always be as many non-toll lanes as there are today.

Adkisson says the real answer to a lack of funding for highways is to raise the gasoline tax, to spread out the costs of the construction.

"The Legislature has been pretty gutless in terms of raising the gasoline tax," he said.  "They haven't done it in the past 25 years."

Manufacturers also complained that tolls will raise the costs of the raw materials they use to manufacturer products, potentially pricing them out of key markets.

Other speakers urged the MPO to be more aggressive in recovering gasoline tax money collected in metro San Antonio which is being sent to other parts of the state to build and repair roads there.  One estimate was that $1.2 billion in local gasoline tax money is being sent to other areas.

The proposal also calls for bicycle lanes on many busy surface streets, a hike and bike trail in Rimkus Park in Leon Valley. $1.5 million in 'low impact landscaping' around downtown freeway entrances, and $8 million to finally begin work on the long planned Austin-San Antonio Passenger Rail plan.

It also includes the $38 million interchange at Highway 151 and Loop 1604, and construction of four non-tolled lanes on Loop 1604 from Potranco to Culebra.

The Texas Department of Transportation will have the final say on the long range transportation plan.

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