Public transit officials in San Antonio are striving to make progress in allocating $147 million for local transportation-related projects. The money comes from Proposition 1, which Texas voters approved last year. That move made available $1.74 billion to be distributed statewide this fiscal year for new road construction and improvements to existing infrastructure. The money is actually about half of the state’s oil and gas severance tax revenue, which previously went into the state’s rainy day fund.
Requirements for projects to be eligible for Prop 1 funding included that a project be ready to let in this current fiscal year of 2015, which started Oct. 1. The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved spending $124 million of the local funds on three major area projects. The most significant of these projects is the widening of Loop 410 from Texas 151 to Ingram Road from six to eight lanes, and the construction of new connecting ramps at 151. This project costs $75.5 million. The second biggest project involves improving Interstate 10 from Ralph Fair Road to Fair Oaks Ranch. Workers would build grade separation at Old Fredericksburg Road, reconfigure ramps, and widen and convert frontage roads. Frontage roads that have until now carried two-lane traffic will become one-way. This project will cost $25.6 million. The third project involves frontage road, intersection and ramp improvements along U.S. 90 from Loop 1604 to Loop 410. This will cost $22.9 million.
The state mandated that no Prop 1 money go towards toll roads or related projects. Toll road opponents had asked for some help from Prop 1 funds to help offset the need for any such scheduled roads where a toll could be imposed. According to state officials, 85 percent of the entire Prop 1 fund would be used to support efforts to ease congestion in major urban regions across Texas, to upgrade connectivity among these regions, and to boost road maintenance and rehabilitation. The rest of the Prop 1 funds will be dedicated to improving roads in shale areas, where large truck traffic resulting from the current energy boom has damaged roads that typically experience light, rural traffic.
The local MPO will have to hold a hearing to allow public input on the San Antonio-area projects getting Prop 1 funds. Local transit officials said they expect construction on these projects to start before the end of this year.
Political officials and business leaders across the state feel that the Prop 1 funds, supporting these projects around Texas, will help to reduce traffic congestion in many areas and bolster local economies in the way of raising productivity and creating new jobs.