For Whom the Toll Roads Toll
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
July 31, 2003

In the ever-unfolding story of how the State can creatively finance or shift its historically State-funded functions we now visit the question of toll roads.  I am fortunate to live out much of my life in a part of the City and County that is reminiscent in part of the 1950's.  Traffic has never been a serious issue and so I empathize with and want to support those for whom traffic is a really critical issue.

Most of us in Bexar County and the surrounding areas experience at least a little if not a great deal of traffic.  This adds up to time lost in work-related commutes and sometimes even the routine daily functions of shopping or attending various events.  This loss of time is irreplaceable and an unnecessary drain in our daily lives.  And unless proper planning takes place, even more time will be lost as this large urban county and metroplex continues to grow.  So, just what is the solution to traffic congestion?

The solutions to traffic congestion are many!  For some time now I have been promoting the VIA Big Pass as a single measure that will assist our community to decongest our expressways.  At present, Bexar County has about $3.8 billion in needed transportation projects to be done between now and 2015, beyond the currently projected monies available to TXDOT.  Enter the concept of toll roads.

No matter where you come down on the concept of toll roads in whatever configuration may be laid out, your participation in the process is important.  At present, Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) is seeking local participation in financing our future transportation needs and presenting various scenarios for tolling.  Just because they are presented however, is no indication of what we will do here locally.  In fact, Commissioner's Court, not the State, has the final say on what is to be considered for tolling. 

The TXDOT proposals for discussion are State Highway 151 from US 90 to Loop 1604, Loop 1604 from State Highway 151 to IH 35-toll main lanes, Loop 1604 from State Highway 151 to IH 35-toll added lane, US 281 from Loop 1604 to Comal County line and a diamond interchange at Loop 1604 & US 281.

In the interest of fighting traffic congestion, if we are to toll any roads, it seems reasonable to take fundamental considerations into account in our deliberations.  Consider new highway construction, not existing roads and those in progress.  Access roads should be available or be made available wherever tolling is proposed. 

One component of Bexar County's consideration it State Highway 151.  Known also as the Raymond B. Stotzer Freeway, this expressway was built with $14.5 million worth of donated right-of-way to help finance the frontage roads on SH 151.  Consideration of the generosity of the donor landowners and the low revenue potential of this segment should be taken in determining any toll road application on SH 151. 

As I write about planning efforts to avoid congestion, I can never forget the unfortunate and unnecessary situation we find ourselves in with respect to Loop 410 and 281 North.  This intersection has long needed an interchange.  It is currently in need of money. 

As we know from the good Book, a nation without vision will perish.  So will a community and its traffic system.  Let's not perish when it comes to our transportation systems.  As citizens and elected officials, let us demonstrate vision, wisdom and courage in our future.

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