Common Sense & Discipline Should Guide Transportation Policy
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 10, 2005

The VIA website informs us that, "On November 2, 2004, the voters in San Antonio approved the formation of the Advanced Transportation District, or ATD. The ATD will be funded by a quarter-cent sales tax, which is expected to raise approximately $34 million each year."

A Little Contemporary Transportation History

It goes on to say, "Voters approved the ATD referendum with 58 per cent of the vote in favor. This marks a significant shift from public sentiment in 2000 when voters turned down VIA's light rail proposal with a resounding 70 per cent against the measure. VIA responded with the ATD proposal, a comprehensive transportation improvement package that includes public transportation and roadways but excludes light rail."

The Sacred Trust

"The passage of the ATD is evidence that the community wants its transportation infrastructure improved," said John M. Milam, the president and CEO of VIA. "The voters have chosen to entrust us with scarce and sacred tax dollars, and we will honor that trust by working with our transportation partners to effectively and efficiently implement all the components of the ATD."

"The ATD provides VIA half of the proceeds from the quarter-cent tax to pay for improvements and expansions to public transportation. The City of San Antonio and the Texas Department of Transportation will split the remainder for road and highway projects as well as related transportation infrastructure."

For your information, the total ATD money collected from June through September is $6,189,184.00. The City and TxDOT received $3,094,592.00 each!

VIA is the conservator of the ATD monies, save and except the City's money which is wired immediately to them upon receipt. In contrast, the ATD Board holds the TxDOT monies in an interest-bearing account until it decides to match ATD monies to TxDOT, in consultation with the Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO. The MPO is an agency with both elected and non-elected representatives from the City, the County, Suburban Cities and the Bexar Legislative Delegation. The ATD which is the VIA Board, has a separate budget so that it can clearly account for its operations.

Creative Financing

Some of the projects in San Antonio and Bexar County will be "pass-through financed" where ATD monies will used to issue bonds and accelerate critical projects, such as Blanco from Glade Crossing to West Oak Estates and Culebra from Loop 410 to Grissom Road. Pass-through financing is a mechanism whereby Texas cities or counties accelerate a project or projects. The City or county fronts the money. Then, TxDOT reimburses 100% of the project cost without interest over a ten to fifteen year period. Payments are based upon the number of vehicles using the road and the length of the road financed.

The RMA Interface

The Regional Mobility Authority or RMA will negotiate with TxDOT in Austin and here Regionally, a Comprehensive Development Agreement or CDA. The CDA is a written agreement between TxDOT and a private developer and contains the details negotiated for the financing, building and maintaining of a toll system. It is to be for a maximum term of 50 years. After TxDOT enters into this agreement, it will be transferable to the local Alamo RMA or to TxDOT if unacceptable to the RMA. This is what makes it so important that the local RMA be involved in the negotiations between TxDOT and the private developer.

As importantly, this information in the above paragraph is what makes it so important for elected officials and citizens alike to take time to scrutinize the Comprehensive Development Agreement. On top of the ATD monies recently approved by voters, the historical underfunding of public transportation, $3.00 plus per gallon gasoline and the Austin-San Antonio Commuter Rail being planned, this added transportation proposal cries out for common sense and a disciplined scrutiny.

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