Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5)
Transportation Committee Chair and Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) said she was disappointed following a briefing with members of the Transportation and Capital Improvements department. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) admonished Transportation and Capital Improvements Department (TCI) leaders after a Monday briefing failed to answer questions she submitted in writing to the department three weeks ago.

TCI Interim Director Razi Hosseini presented the transportation committee with several potential designs of the lower portion of Broadway Street and staff recommended City Council accept the design that is currently 40 percent completed, which includes putting protected bike lanes on Avenue B. Because the 2017-2022 bond funding is allocated for Broadway improvements, the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) agreed to provide $6 million for the Avenue B project last week.

Gonzales chided Hosseini for giving essentially the same TCI presentation the transportation committee saw in August.

“This is not what I asked for,” she said. “I am beyond furious with this presentation. We had specific questions we asked you to get back to us on. We asked what kind of development was in the area. What expectation there was for development.”

Hosseini sent Gonzalez written answers to her eight questions on Monday evening. He explained that the first design option, which does not include protected bike lanes, provided the best level of service for three out of four modes of transportation: driving, bus transit, and walking or using wheelchairs on the sidewalk.

“Sacrificing the [level of service] for all modes for the sole purpose of including all modes, does not define a complete street,” Hosseini wrote.

Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) asked why Avenue B would be a safer option for cyclists. TCI Deputy Interim Director Art Reinhardt explained that Avenue B has more room for a wider and protected bike lane.

“When we’re looking at safety for bike facilities, there’s a combination of factors,” Reinhardt said. “We’re looking at the amount of traffic volume you have, the number of potential conflict zones with a facility. As Razi presented, we’re looking at various options along Broadway itself. Avenue B has much more room for a wider, more protected facility. There’s about a tenth of the traffic volume you have on Broadway and there [are fewer intersecting streets].”

Hosseini added that Avenue B easily could be reduced to one lane going one way, but taking away vehicular lanes on Broadway Street would cause congestion because VIA Metropolitan Transit buses use the corridor. 

“When you have one lane going north, and a bus is stopped, you are blocking an entire lane,” he said.

As far as development along the Broadway corridor, the traffic analysis anticipated 35 percent growth over the next 20 years, Reinhardt said.

“Historically, over the last few years, Broadway and much of downtown has seen about 4 percent growth in traffic volume. … Eventually, the entire growth rate will level off,” Reinhardt said. “Instead of 4 percent each year, it’ll be one and a half percent.”

Gonzales said she was disappointed in Monday’s briefing because part of its purpose was to present committee members with the traffic analysis of Broadway Street. Engineering firm Pape-Dawson completed a traffic study of the corridor last month that recommended not including bike lanes on Broadway Street, and three design options that were presented to the committee Monday.

“Why conduct a study and not present any of the information in the study?” Gonzales asked.

She added that traffic engineers find it difficult to give up any level of service for automobiles when planning a street.

“This is where so much of the disconnect is happening in the city,” she said. “Many of us are asking what an entire environment will look like, and traffic engineers cannot steer themselves away from level of service for cars.”

Gonzales said she intends to put the Broadway corridor back on the agenda at the next transportation committee meeting.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.