In their meeting this past Monday, the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved Mobility 2040: their long range transit plan. Allocating 10 years worth of funds from Proposition 1, which voters approved this November, Mobility 2040 will add nearly 40 new transportation projects.
Voters will recall adopting Proposition 1 in November: a measure which diverted transfers to the Economic Stabilization Fund into the State Highway Fund to be used for construction, maintenance, and rights-of-way acquisition for non-tolled, public roadways. In order to help sell the proposal, voters were told explicitly that these funds would not be used for toll roads.
As we have observed, this gives rise to the officially unaddressed concern that a sudden infusion of cash into unaccountable Regional Mobility Authorities (RMA’s) would “free up” other funds, which can then be spent on toll roads, essentially violating the spirit of their promise to voters.
Unfortunately for San Antonio residents, these promises are often a distinction in name only; recently demonstrated through Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s irresponsible “swap” of $92 million with TxDOT to avoid restrictions on fund usage promised to voters. Voters will recall having approved the Advanced Transportation District on the premise that funds would not be used for the streetcar project. As a workaround, Wolff swapped those funds with TxDOT in order to do just that, and in the process, cost the county the ability to leverage nearly $500 million in matching state and federal highway funds. San Antonio officials seem to have a tendency of not letting pesky promises to constituents get in the way of funding their unpopular pet projects, and the AAMPO’s vote Monday was more of the same.
Well, San Antonio residents have been lied to again. Now, Proposition 1 funds will be going towards toll roads with the AAMPO’s approval of Mobility 2040. Allocating $605 million in toll projects, the AAMPO plan adds toll lanes to I-10, Highway 151, and I-37/US 281, in addition to already existing toll projects on US 281, Loop 1604, I-10, and I-35.
Contradictorily employing the phrase “complete streets,” the AAMPO plan also includes $48 million to be spent on bike lanes, which ultimately decrease roadway car capacity.
Critics, many of whom were in attendance, expressed their disapproval during public comment, referring to many of Mobility 2040’s unpopular aspects, including broken promises, double-taxation, and social engineering to get people away from driving cars. Despite many constituents voicing these concerns, their criticism fell on deaf ears when only Councilman Mike Gallagher voted against the plan.
More interesting, however, is the fact that by the MPO’s own admission, an even more controversial measure remains up for discussion, despite being shot down and fought at every turn. After their vote on Mobility 2040, the board presented slides regarding future projects and appropriations, which included the overwhelmingly unpopular streetcar proposal, referring to it simply as “paused.” Despite the impressive friction put forward against the proposal by engaged citizens, central planners in San Antonio won’t give up on their pet boondoggles easily.