That $1 billion scheme to build toll lanes on I-10, US 281, and Loop 1604 across the north side, dubbed ‘Super Tolls,’ appears to be getting traction at City Hall, as the plan was unveiled to city officials on Wednesday, 1200 WOAI news reports.
READ: The Cal Berkeley study showing managed lanes don't work:
“If we don’t do something about easing traffic congestion, eventually what happens is that business move away,” Mayor Julian Castro told 1200 WOAI news.
The proposal calls for using the $1o increase in the county vehicle registration fee, which was approved earlier this year by Commissioners Court after permission to raise the fee was granted by the Legislature, to leverage money to build new toll lanes on I-10 from La Cantera Parkway to Ralph Fair Road, new toll lanes on US 281 from Stone Oak to the Comal County Line, and on Loop 1604 from Bandera Road to Redland Road.
It also calls for non tolled expressway lanes to be added to Loop 1604 from Bandera to Culebra Roads, and four non tolled lanes to be built on 281 from 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway.
Castro said using local tax money to build lanes that motorists will then be charged to drive on is the only way to make the project work.
“You gotta bring money to the table if you want them to give you money for highways,” he said.
John Clamp, who chairs the Regional Mobility Authority, which is a unit of Bexar County government, said the county faces a double-whammy.
“Bexar County faces a shortfall in transportation funding at the same time it is dealing with unprecedented growth,” Clamp said. “Doing noting to address those needs would damage our economic viability as a nation.”
The new toll lanes would be what are called ‘managed lanes,’ also called HOV, or High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, lanes which would be free to carpools and busses, but a toll would be charged to everybody else, including commuters.
1200 WOAI news cited a 2004 study done by Pravin Varaiya, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, which is considered the standard academic study of managed lanes and highway congestion.
“An HOV lane suffers a 20% capacity loss compared with multi lane freeways,” the report concluded. “HOV lanes are either under utilized or suffer degraded operations. HOV lanes do not measurably increase car pooling. HOV lanes do not reduce overall highway congestion.”
But Clamp took issue with 1200 WOAI news citing that study in our reporting, saying “Using a 10 year old study published in another state to discredit the use of some form of managed lanes to resolve local congestion is suspect at best.”
Clamp said toll roads ‘work’ in Houston and Dallas.
“If they didn’t work, you wouldn’t get private financing to fund them,” he said.
By way of comparison, the 2012 Urban Highway Congestion study done by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, said Dallas traffic, toll roads and all, is the 6th most congested in the country. Houston is the fourth most congested. San Antonio is the 33rd most congested city.
Clamp says nobody is taking away any existing lanes.
“What you have today will always be there and will always be non toll,” he said.
Castro said toll lanes may be the only way possible to increase traffic congestion.
“If the question is, do we have toll roads or do we have nothing, and let the congestion just keep building and building, I think managed lanes are the better option,” he said.