Officials from the Texas Department of Transportation said this week that they’re ready to begin construction on San Antonio’s Broadway corridor as soon as late this year.
The news came as a surprise to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Erik Walsh, who each said, as of Wednesday morning, that they hadn’t received an update from TxDOT.
“We haven’t seen TxDOT’s plans — and to our knowledge, neither has the public — so we are not in a position to provide comment or discuss any local funding contributions,” Walsh said in a statement Wednesday.
TxDOT is overseen by Bruce Bugg Jr., a San Antonio businessman who serves as chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.
“We’re excited to move forward with improvements along Broadway in the cities of San Antonio and Alamo Heights,” Bugg said in a statement Monday. “The TxDOT San Antonio District team continues to work diligently and coordinate with both cities to accelerate these much-needed improvements.”
San Antonio and TxDOT have been at odds for roughly a year now over what should happen with plans to overhaul part of Broadway Street.
As part of the city’s 2017 municipal bond, San Antonio voters approved a Broadway revamp that would turn the street into a multimodal corridor with bike lanes and sidewalks. The project was expected to rely on state, local and federal funding.
As part of a broader effort to stop cities from reducing lanes on busy streets, however, TxDOT last year began reclaiming state roads it had once turned over to cities to maintain. The Texas Transportation Commission voted last January to take back a 2.2-mile stretch of Broadway from Burr Road south to Interstate 35.
San Antonio still owns parts of Broadway, including a section where renovations are underway. That segment, running from East Houston Street to I-35, will include lane reductions and bike- and pedestrian-friendly amenities. The target for completion is June 2024.
But the change in ownership effectively halted progress on the upper segment. Walsh said last summer the city would spend its portion of the project’s funding on other street repairs if the plan doesn’t ultimately include lane reductions.
TxDOT’s press release this week said “state, federal and local funding will be utilized” for the project, and that the agency “continues to coordinate with both cities to identify funding sources for additional enhancements.”
The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization oversees the project’s federal funding component. As of Wednesday afternoon it had not been approached by TxDOT about accessing the money, which would require approval from the AAMPO’s board, according to Director Sid Martinez.
Martinez said some of the federal money could potentially be used for the maintenance plans TxDOT outlined this week, but part of the federal funding is tied to air quality improvements, which were supposed to be achieved by the lane reductions.
City leaders in Alamo Heights last year chose to move forward with an amended plan for their portion Broadway, running from Burr Road to Austin Highway, which keeps the current number of lanes and has TxDOT’s blessing.
TxDOT leaders said they anticipate going to bid in fall 2023 for the segment of the road that runs from I-35 to Burr Road.
Changes to that stretch will focus on “safety, maintenance and operational enhancements to repair the roadway, add ADA accessibility to intersections, and improve sidewalks and curbs,” the agency said in a statement.
TxDOT Public Information Officer Laura Lopez said the agency was not able to provide any renderings or detailed plans for the improvements.
Walsh said Wednesday that he had reached out to TxDOT’s leadership requesting an update. City staff presented a proposed compromise, including the lane reductions, which was rejected by TxDOT in August of last year.