A citizens committee overseeing the streets, bridges, and sidewalks portion of the 2022 municipal bond finalized its project recommendations without much change, although a few members pushed for more funding to repair streets in poor condition.

The committee, made up of 30 council member-appointed representatives and chaired by two mayoral appointees, met for the fourth and final time Monday to forward bond recommendations that City Council will see in January. Of the $477 million city staff proposed for streets, bridges and sidewalk bond projects, $100 million is allocated to fixing so-called “F streets” whose condition earned them a failing grade. 

District 2 committee member Joseph Bravo asked his colleagues to consider eliminating $9 million from the Hemisfair Park Boulevard streets project and redirect it to other street repairs. His request failed.

“I know that everyone has argued very favorably about regional projects and how important it is,” he said. “We were looking just for additional dollars for F streets.”

Omar Gonzalez, the outgoing director of development at Hemisfair, explained that the project had been underway since 2012 and Hemisfair has received funding from multiple rounds of bond programs but hasn’t received full funding.

“The issue is that every time you’re not fully funded, you’ve got to go back” and seek additional bond money, he said. “And so this project should have been done a long time ago. And every time we wait five more years, so to wait another five years would not make this possible.”

The project, which would make Montana Street a two-way street between Cherry Street and Hemisfair Boulevard, also aims to connect the East Side with Hemisfair, Gonzalez said. Right now, Highway 281 acts as a barrier between Eastside neighborhoods and Hemisfair, he added.

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2), who attended Monday’s meeting, said he was disappointed about the distribution of funding for failed streets in his district. Though one of his appointed bond committee members identified Hemisfair as a potential way to fund more street repairs, McKee-Rodriguez said he wasn’t focused on Hemisfair specifically.

“The only way District 2 will gain is if we change the way that F streets are allocated, or some district gives up a project or gives up some portion of their project,” he said. “If a few people gave $500,000 each for each of their projects, we might get a street or two. But if nobody’s willing to do that, there’s no way for us to get to a point where District 2 is not getting the short end of the stick. And because we’ve historically gotten the short end of the stick, we’re not standing for that.”

McKee-Rodriguez said he would approach his City Council colleagues to make a case for putting more funding toward failed streets in his district. If he can’t make headway, he said he was hard-pressed to support the streets bond proposition at all. The streets portion of the bond is one of six bond propositions that voters will see on the ballot in May.

“Depending on how that goes, we organize: either yes or no,” he said. “And we’re going to be campaigning like we’re back in the campaign season a few months ago. So we’re all-in yes or we’re all-in no. It can go one of two ways.”

District 10 committee member Tamara Benavides proposed funding more street repairs by reducing the public arts allocation of the bond program from 1.5% to 1%, an attempt that also failed.

“While we understand the importance of the arts in the city and the revenue it brings and the impact it has, we are saying that we cannot wait another five years to address the neglect of our city streets,” she said.

Of the overall proposed streets bond program, $7.2 million is recommended for public art projects.

The committee did vote to make one small change. At the suggestion of District 5 committee member Mark Camann, the bond committee reduced the funding for a South Zarzamora Overpass project from $5 million to $2.5 million, to be redistributed to other streets and sidewalks projects within District 5. 

The committee also recommended that the City Council allocate up to $10 million of any saved bond funding toward failed streets projects if the city somehow does not spend all the bond dollars as proposed.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.