Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) wants City Council to discuss how it executes large infrastructure projects after moves by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other Council members to alter a portion of the design for a major Broadway Street renovation to include protected bike lanes.
Treviño, who represents downtown and a portion of the city north of downtown where the project is located, filed the Council Consideration Request (CCR) last week. It calls for a comprehensive review of processes related to public engagement, development, and design of bond projects that are approved by voters every five years. It also asks what roles Council members and the mayor can play in delaying or significantly changing projects.
“There have been recent efforts by special interest groups to make project changes to a voter-approved 2017 Municipal Bond project, specifically the reconfiguration of the streetscape to newly added protected bike lanes to the lower section of Broadway,” Treviño wrote in his request. “These suggested changes are being pursued well after the initial project scope was formed and broad design details were presented as part of the Bond approval process.”
It’s unclear if the request will be considered by the Governance Committee, which Nirenberg chairs. He sets the committee’s agenda and has been clear about wanting bike lanes on Broadway. Councilwomen Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), Rebecca Viagran (D3), Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), and Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) signed on to Treviño’s request; Rocha Garcia also serves on the Governance Committee.
Nirenberg declined to comment.
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) also has called for bike lanes on Broadway and chairs the Transportation and Mobility Committee. That five-member group is slated to consider a new design for the street sometime next month.
Gonzales said she disagrees with the premise that City Council members shouldn’t have a say in how bond projects are executed.
“We have a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the city’s bond program and that includes feedback to ensure that projects are completed on time, on budget, and includes input from all citizens,” Gonzales said via text. “Bond projects are not done in isolation but are intended to complement other things happening in the area. Council members are in constant communication with citizens, the private sector, schools, CPS [Energy], SAWS, and other organizations to ensure that taxpayers dollars are properly spent. Any attempt to limit that communication would be a great disservice to our community.”
Treviño’s move marks the latest turn in the discussion about bike lanes on the southernmost mile of a voter-approved $42 million bond project on Broadway Street. Nirenberg and some cycling advocates say the street needs bike lanes along the entire strip, while Treviño, City engineers, and consultants say the street is too narrow to fully satisfy all vehicular, pedestrian, and cyclist infrastructure needs.
Design delays could push back the construction start date, currently slated for October, Treviño said.
“Why this project?” he told the Rivard Report. “We need to be careful about the kind of precedent we’re setting.”
Asked if Council should have the authority to be flexible and step in when a design doesn’t make sense to them, Treviño responded, “it’s good to have flexibility, but we also have to be mindful of the process that we have.”
The City should trust its own design experts and those it hires, he said.
Others have said that the City won’t execute a project that prioritizes cyclists because of a lack of political will, pointing to developers and property owners who want wide sidewalks and vehicular lanes.
“Design is not a belief system. It’s a building science,” Treviño said, noting the math of the street and the goals of the bond project don’t allow for protected bike lanes.
Currently, Broadway offers pedestrians little space, shade, or comforts as it stretches three miles south from Hildebrand Avenue to Houston Street. “Share the road” signs and faded paint on the street to indicate bike lanes is the extent of bike infrastructure.
The bond project will remove some vehicular lanes, add landscaping and trees, widen sidewalks, and add protected bike lanes for two miles. The last, narrower mile, according to the original plan, prioritizes sidewalks.
Designers suggested diverting bike lanes on the southernmost portion one block over to Avenue B and North Alamo Street.
Winslow Swart, a local technologist and cyclist, started an online petition to call for bike lanes on that southernmost stretch of Broadway. More than 900 people have signed it. Cycling advocacy group Bike San Antonio started two other petitions months ago that gathered more than 900 total signatures.
Swart said he takes issue with Treviño calling cycling advocates “special interests.”
“There’s nothing behind us – there’s no money machine, there’s no profit motive,” Swart said of cycling advocates. “Why would you call something special interest when it’s everyone’s interest?”
It’s the special, “commercial interests” that want wider sidewalks and on-street parking along Broadway, he said.
“There’s no expectation when you’re going downtown that there’s going to be parking right in front” of a business, he added.
The scope of work, according to the City’s 2017 bond website, is to “Reconstruct Broadway from E. Houston to Hildebrand with curbs, sidewalks, driveway approaches, bicycle amenities, lighting, drainage and traffic improvements as appropriate and within available funds. City funding will leverage state and federal funding.”
Regardless of the design outcome, there will be bikes on that stretch of Broadway, Treviño acknowledged. By law, cyclists are allowed to take up a full lane of traffic.
“The whole idea is to make the entire stretch [of Broadway] very pedestrian-friendly and that translates to bikes,” he said.
“Not every street needs to have bike lanes,” he said, but the City should have a cohesive network of bike lanes.
To that end, updating and implementing the City’s Bike Master Plan will be key, he said.