While the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of San Antonio continue to butt heads over how the Broadway corridor should be revamped, an agency that coordinates the area’s state, local and federal transportation plans is moving the project off of its short-range project list.
The move is designed to give the City of San Antonio and TxDOT time to resolve their differences over potential lane reductions the city wants to implement and TxDOT says it won’t allow.
“The funding is still there and committed to the project,” Alamo Area Metropolitan Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Sid Martinez said of the group’s decision to deprioritize Broadway. “If the city and Texas have decided they can move forward with something, [the project] can easily be moved back” into the short-range plan.
“We didn’t want to hold up other projects that may be ready to go and can go sooner,” Martinez added.
Broadway’s renovation project involves funding from the city, state and federal governments.
The Alamo Area Metropolitan Metropolitan Planning Organization oversees the federal funding piece, which is supposed to account for roughly $28 million on the section of Broadway stretching from Interstate 35 to Mulberry Avenue.
On Monday, members of the AAMPO approved both their short-range plan, which includes projects for the 2023-2026 fiscal years, and their long-range plan, which includes projects beginning in 2027.
Doing so formally moved the I-35 to Mulberry Avenue portion of the Broadway project out of the short-range plan and into the long-range plan. A second installment of the Broadway project, from Mulberry Avenue to Burr Road, was at one time also listed in the short-range plan but as of Monday is no longer included in either plan.
Both moves came at the recommendation of the AAMPO’s executive committee, which huddled earlier this month to figure out what to do with a project whose records haven’t kept up with all of the changes.
San Antonio approved $42 million for improving the Broadway corridor for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists as part of its 2017 municipal bond. Key to those plans was a reduction of traffic lanes to accommodate bikes and pedestrians.
The city believed it owned the road at that point, thanks to a “turnback process” of state-owned urban streets that TxDOT initiated in 2013.
In a surprise move earlier this year, TxDOT abruptly reclaimed Broadway, and said it’s no longer allowing any projects that reduce lane capacity.
“We’ve created this issue for ourselves where [AAMPO] awarded money to somebody who doesn’t own the road,” said Martinez. This plan “buys the city and TxDOT time to decide how they want to move forward.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Erik Walsh met with TxDOT officials and J. Bruce Bugg Jr., chair of the Texas Transportation Commission that oversees TxDOT, in May to discuss the project, but have yet to reach an agreement on the lane closures.
“We’re trying, we’re genuinely trying,” Nirenberg said earlier this month of the conversation with Bugg.
However, Nirenberg added, “Voters approved a multimodal corridor, and that’s what we intend to deliver.”
At Monday’s AAMPO meeting, Gina Gallegos, TxDOT’s San Antonio district engineer, reiterated her department’s intention to stand firm in opposing any plan that includes lane closures.
Gallegos said she agreed with the AAMPO’s decision to move the project off its short-term list, but she abstained from voting to approve the plan, which includes language about reducing the lanes.
“We will be submitting a letter to the Alamo Area MPO formally requesting that this description be changed,” said Gallegos.
A portion of the Broadway revamp running through Alamo Heights is now moving forward with TxDOT’s support after the AAPMO approved stripping the lane reduction elements from its plan earlier this year.
Without the lane reductions, however, Martinez said AAMPO’s piece of the funding for San Antonio’s Broadway project could be in jeopardy.
“That funding is more for projects that are looking to reduce single occupancy vehicles and to improve air [quality],” said Martinez. “If there are no lane reductions, there’s this question on whether that money can be used.”
AAMPO Transportation Policy Board member Kevin Wolff, a former Bexar County commissioner, said the drawn out discussions are dampening his optimism about the project’s likelihood for getting back on track.
“I’m becoming less and less hopeful as days go by that some sort of compromise will happen,” said Wolff.
“The city, rightly or wrongly, has stood by its guns and continues to fight,” he added. “The more of those fights you have, the harder the feelings become.”
This article has been updated to correctly reflect Kevin Wolff’s position on the AAMPO’s Transportation Policy Board.