Jul 31, 2023 - News

Plans for Broadway corridor's future in San Antonio still fuzzy

Illustration of rolls of bills behind a road barricade

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

As the state prepares to begin construction on Broadway between Pearl and Alamo Heights, it's unclear what improvements the Texas Department of Transportation will make.

Driving the news: TxDOT is set to begin work on upper Broadway on Sept. 4, spokesperson Laura Lopez tells Axios.

  • But city officials still haven't seen the state's plans for the project.

Why it matters: The city cannot move forward with its voter-approved plans to add pedestrian and urban amenities to Broadway. That leaves $82.5 million in limbo after city officials said they don't have plans to reprogram the funds to other street projects.

  • The roughly 2-mile Broadway corridor is dotted with museums and local businesses. The high-traffic road is frequented by residents enjoying leisure activities as well as traveling through.

Catch up fast: The city's original plans for Broadway included widened sidewalks, protected bike lanes, updated landscaping and reduced lanes.

  • San Antonio voters approved of the city's urban vision for Broadway as part of the 2017 bond program, passing it with 78% support.
  • But in January 2022, the Texas Transportation Commission took control of Broadway.
  • The planned lane reductions were central to the state's decision to take control of the project, the Express-News reported, because such a change would conflict with Gov. Greg Abbott's directive to reduce traffic congestion.

Context: City public works director Razi Hosseini told the San Antonio Report that the city is putting the money toward other projects.

  • Mayor Ron Nirenberg and city manager Erik Walsh contradicted those comments in statements to the Express-News days later, saying there are no plans to reallocate the funds, and they are waiting on plans from the state.

What they're saying: "TxDOT has spoken of designs that align with all of our goals and interests, but we have yet to see such a proposal," Nirenberg said in a statement to Axios. "I look forward to seeing those renderings and remain hopeful that we can do right by the San Antonio community."

  • "The City remains hopeful that TxDOT will present plans to the City and the community that align with the original intent," Walsh said in a statement to Axios. "In the meantime, there are no plans to reallocate funds."

State of play: Broadway improvements were popular and central to the city's 2017 bond program, Christian Archer, campaign manager for the OneSA 2017 bond campaign, tells Axios.

  • "It was one of the major selling points of the bond," Archer says.
  • The project also had support from business owners along Broadway, Archer says.

Zoom in: It makes sense that Nirenberg and Walsh would continue to push for plans that amassed such public support, Archer tells Axios.

Meanwhile, the city is working on improvements to a downtown stretch of lower Broadway it owns. The project will widen sidewalks, add pedestrian lighting and landscaping and upgrade utilities. It should be finished next summer, a city spokesperson tells Axios.

The bottom line: "It's still just this gigantic question mark about one of the major arterial roadways going into downtown," Archer says.

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