Bexar County approves long-term road projects

Expansion of Loop 1604 on West Side could start soon

By Katherine Blunt STAFF WRITER

Weeks after the passage of a ballot measure that will increase state transportation funding, Bexar County officials have determined a number of road projects to complete with another long-term funding source.

The Commissioners Court approved a list of 14 projects for the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority to complete with the county’s vehicle registration fee revenue during the next decade. One of the projects might break ground early next year.

“All of these projects will be added to the Alamo RMA capital projects budget, and we will be working with financial advisers to program those projects,” said Renee Green, director of public works for Bexar County and operations manager for the RMA.

The county’s $10 vehicle registration fee, adopted in 2013, generated about $15.6 million last fiscal year. That revenue is expected to grow 2.5 percent each year in the future, according to the county’s fiscal assessment of the fee.

“As population grows and everyone registers their vehicle, we will get that particular fee indexed to the growth,” Green said.

Though RMAs often are thought of as tolling authorities, they’re able to fund many types of transportation projects. None of the projects built with vehicle registration fee revenue will be tolled.

The list of projects was approved partly because of the passage of Proposition 7, a constitutional amendment that will boost state transportation funding by $2.5 billion each year beginning in 2018 and an additional $430 million starting in 2020. The extra cash will enable the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to fund an expansion of U.S. 281 without tolls and might affect the region’s toll plan in the future.

Because no toll projects have been planned for the near term, the Commissioners Court worked with the RMA to determine how it could allocate its vehicle registration fee revenue, Precinct 3 County Commissioner Kevin Wolff said.

“When Prop. 7 came along and we replaced planned toll dollars with Prop. 7 dollars, it took the RMA out of the picture from a tolling standpoint,” he said.

Ten of the 14 projects are expansions or improvements of county roads outside Loop 410. The remaining four are state roads that will be completed in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation.

The project closest to construction is an expansion of Loop 1604 from Potranco Road to U.S. 90. The RMA will contribute $70 million to the $93.8 million project, which is part of a five-year plan to improve mobility on high-traffic highways.

TxDOT likely will be ready to break ground on that project in the spring, said Josh Donat, TxDOT spokesman.

“We’re trying to get the plans ready and done by the beginning of the year,” he said.

The three other TxDOT projects, which will cost $83.9 million, have yet to be designed . The RMA’s $32.2 million contribution will be used only for construction, which is proposed to begin in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

The RMA will contribute $76.9 million to the county road projects, which cost about $93.1 million total. Those will be planned and constructed between fiscal years 2017 and 2021. kblunt@express-news.net 

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