This story has been updated.

The City of San Antonio’s latest plan to bring the Texas Department of Transportation back on board with its plans for the the Broadway corridor appears dead on arrival.

San Antonio submitted an updated proposal for the Broadway renovation that would make some changes to address TxDOT’s concerns with traffic congestion through synchronized traffic signals, consolidated driveways and raised medians to eliminate left turns. The new plan would still include reducing the number of lanes from six to four, something TxDOT has said it won’t consider.

City leaders presented the plan to TxDOT officials, including Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr., on June 14. City Manager Erik Walsh said Tuesday the city hadn’t received a response, but TxDOT later issued a statement reiterating the agency’s opposition to lane reductions.

“TxDOT has received the City’s proposal and while we do not agree with the findings to reduce the lanes from six lanes to four lanes, we believe this creates an opportunity for continued conversations,” TxDOT spokeswoman Raquelle Lewis said in the statement.

TxDOT has taken an aggressive stance to stop cities from pursuing projects like the Broadway renovation, which it says create traffic problems for people who rely on the state highway system.

Its commission voted to reclaim part of Broadway stretching from Interstate 35 to Burr Road in order to stop San Antonio’s proposed lane closures in January. It also strong-armed Alamo Heights into removing planned lane closures from its own portion of Broadway, in order for the city to secure money for much-needed flood control.

“TxDOT remains committed to making improvements to Broadway without reducing motor vehicle lanes,” Bugg stated Tuesday. He pointed to other places where the agency and city could collaborate on improvements to the road, such as “burial of utility lines, better sidewalks, and landscaping.” 

Under threat of losing a project city leaders view as crucial to creating a more walkable city, however, San Antonio officials say money intended for the state-owned portion of Broadway could be moved to other projects if the lane reductions aren’t kept in place. 

San Antonio voters approved the Broadway revamp as part of the 2017 municipal bond, and the city planned to spend roughly $42 million on the project, money that Walsh said would likely be used for other street repairs if the state declines this latest proposal.

“They’re going to have to figure out what to do with Broadway,” Walsh said of TxDOT and its desire to push a version of the project without lane reductions.

“If it’s a state road, then there’s work that needs to be done … but we will not find ourselves in a position where we’re using city money anymore on this project,” he added.

Federal money for the state’s portion of the project is also hanging in the balance.

An agency that coordinates the area’s state, local and federal transportation plans moved Broadway off of its short-range project list in June, and suggested that the $28 million in federal funding it oversees may no longer be eligible for the state’s version of the plan because it lacks the environmental component.

San Antonio is also marching ahead with plans to reduce the number of lanes on the city-owned portion of the road stretching from Houston Street to I-35.

“Let’s say that this [proposal] doesn’t work, and they [TxDOT] want to keep all the lanes,” said Walsh. “All those lanes are going to go, as they go underneath I-35 … down into two lanes, so traffic is going to back up at some point.”

Traffic studies conducted by the city and state do not include projections for congestion caused by the potential sudden reduction of lanes at I-35, and TxDOT did not respond to a question about the issue Tuesday.

Walsh said the state has an opportunity to work with the city on softening that transition, if they can come together on proposals for the stretches of renovation project that run from I-35 to Mulberry Avenue, and from Mulberry Avenue to Burr Road.

“The design for Mulberry to 35 was practically done,” said Walsh. “The design of the road from Mulberry to Burr, which happens to be the widest part of roadway, hasn’t been done, so that part could look differently as we work something out with the state.”

Using a state-funded traffic study conducted by Jacobs Synchro, the city asked the Broadway plan’s designer, Pape Dawson Engineers, to come up with ways to tweak the plan to reduce traffic.

The new proposal focuses on moving cars through intersections more efficiently, while keeping the bike and pedestrian lanes the city views as crucial to creating a multimodal corridor. Its synchronized lights mean drivers should not have to stop more than once on the corridor, according to the city.

A proposed design of Broadway's upper segment from the City of San Antonio to TxDOT.
A proposed design of Broadway’s upper segment from the City of San Antonio to TxDOT. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

This is “truly a win-win because it gives the state their number one issue of capacity improvement, and it keeps us on track to deliver a project that voters approved,” said Walsh.

TxDOT, meanwhile, pointed to the Jacobs Synchro study as proof the project would create future traffic headaches in a rapidly growing city.

“Results from the most recent traffic studies show that population growth in the area necessitates this capacity, even with optimistic assumptions about future travel behavior shifting to other roadways or alternative modes of transportation,” said Lewis.

This story has been updated to correct that the Texas Transportation Commission voted to reclaim part of Broadway stretching from Interstate 35 to Burr Road, not Mulberry Avenue.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.