A public tax board unanimously approved a $6 million reimbursement deal with the City of San Antonio Friday that will bring protected tracks for cyclists to portions of Avenue B and North Alamo Street.
The bike lanes represent an alternative route for cyclists traveling on lower Broadway Street from Interstate 35 to Houston Street, a stretch City engineers say is too narrow to accommodate separated bike lanes while also accommodating the desired vehicular traffic, service lane, and wider sidewalks. Cycling advocates and several City Council members, including Mayor Ron Nirenberg, want the $42 million Broadway Street redevelopment to include bike lanes on the entire length of the 3-mile project.
As proposed, protected bike lanes would be installed south from the northernmost point of the project at Hildebrand Avenue for about two miles. At Roy Smith Street, the protected lanes would extend west and then south onto Avenue B, cross back over Broadway on McCullough Avenue, then follow a route along North Alamo Street for a few blocks to Houston Street.
The City estimates the bike lane installation will be completed by fall 2021 – before the first phase of the Broadway Street bond project is completed.
Installing protected bike lanes there would provide safety for cyclists in the corridor while construction continues on Broadway, noted Suzanne Scott, general manager of the San Antonio River Authority who sits on the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) board.
“It’s exciting that we’ve been able to … take a multimodal approach to Broadway,” Scott said. “This is a great action by this TIRZ board to fulfill the promise that we made when we did the Midtown TIRZ Master Plan in 2011. … It’s a good day for Midtown.”
That plan stated enhanced bike connectivity, specifically on Avenue B, as a goal. Avenue B leads to bike paths that are part of the San Antonio River Improvement Project on the Mission Reach.
Approval of the funding does not preclude adding bike lanes on Broadway, said Richard Grochowski, a project manager for the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements department. They are separate projects, but “Avenue B and Alamo were identified even before the bond program as the bike routes [for the corridor],” he said, noting conceptual renderings produced in 2016 by a consultant firm.
Funding for the bike lanes on Avenue B and North Alamo Street had not been fully identified until Friday.
“There’s not a whole lot of room to put infrastructure [on lower Broadway],
Grochowski told the board, and guiding principles of the bond project call for shade trees and wide pedestrian access to accommodate increased activity and growth along the burgeoning corridor. “Bike lanes were contemplated, but it was identified that Avenue B and North Alamo would be better corridors to install bike lanes,” he said.
But the concept of installing bike lanes on streets adjacent to lower Broadway wasn’t made widely public until November 2018 as the design was nearing completion.
A City Council committee that addresses transportation and mobility issues is slated to consider lower Broadway Street’s design later this month. It’s likely the matter will come before the full Council soon after, when a decision will be made on whether to go with City staff’s proposal or to add bike lanes.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who favors the staff proposal, has questioned the mayor and Council’s authority when it comes to intervening in professionally designed bond projects. A traffic study conducted over the summer concluded that bike lanes on the adjacent streets would be safer than those on Broadway.
Nirenberg said those results represent the car-centric attitude of traditional street design.
“City Council represents the million-and-a-half people that are residing in our city so I think that we need to make sure that we express the desires of our community through the policies that we set,” he said last week. “That’s why we have a Transportation [and Mobility] Committee.”
An online petition was launched in July to call for bike lanes on that southernmost stretch of Broadway. More than 1,300 people have signed it. Cycling advocacy group Bike San Antonio started two other petitions before that, gathering more than 900 total signatures combined.
The Midtown TIRZ, one of nine such zones citywide, collects incremental increases of property tax revenue as new residential and commercial projects are built in the area. The board allocates that money to other development projects and infrastructure improvements within the area’s boundaries. The Midtown TIRZ boundary includes the area north of downtown and stretches north along Broadway.
As the project is completed, TCI periodically will submit receipts and invoices for reimbursement to the board.