The Canyon Lake Times Guardian

US 281 and Loop 1604 to be built as toll roads

By Peter A. Garcia
Staff Writer

On June 14, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (Alamo RMA) issued a press release stating it plans to exercise the Alamo RMA’s right of first refusal to develop the expansions of US 281 and Loop 1604 as toll projects.

This step was taken in response to action taken by the Texas Transportation Commission to continue the expansions of US 281 and Loop 1604 as toll projects. Some may think this information is of little use or value because there will be no toll roads in Comal county.

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that U.S. Highway 281 is the main feeder road for many of Comal counties commuters. The results of this decision by the Texas Transportation Commission will impact these families directly in several ways.

Firstly, Comal county residents will suffer because of the delays caused by construction.

Then, after an undetermined period of construction delays, the toll road will open and then the financial impact will be felt. To some of our commuters the financial increase may be negligible and to others astronomical; in either case it is an expense that cannot be avoided.

The Texas Transportation Commission’s decision to proceed with development of US 281 and Loop 1604 as toll financed projects means that any improvements for these corridors will have to be funded utilizing toll revenue.

Looking at the maps that accompany this article, you will see that TxDoT plans for U.S. Highway 281 to be tolled from the Bexar county line back to Loop 1604. Loop 1604 in turn will be a toll road North of Interstate 10.

Many of our residents know the few roads that do run parallel to U.S. Highway 281 cannot support a large volume of traffic. Therefore, due to insufficient roadways most Comal county residents will be locked into using U.S. Highway 281 or using alternate roadways to interstate 35 as a means of reducing time delays, and eventually, avoiding road tolls.

In the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Board press release, the Chairman, Dr. William Thornton stated. “We know that no one wants to pay tolls. We know that growth is, however, going to continue to come to our region and we can plan for it, or plan to avoid it. The reality is that if these needed projects are going to be built, they must be toll roads. Either TxDOT can build these projects, or the Alamo RMA can. With this last legislative session, we can now exercise the local leadership and local control necessary to keep control of this project in Bexar County and work closely with the MPO and other local partners on these projects.”

It is unfortunate that the legislature failed to provide the protection they promised in Senate Bill 792. What is also unfortunate is TxDOT District Engineer David Casteel’s admissions on May 17, 2020 and August 31, 2020 that the original improvement plan is 100% paid for; yet there was a push to outsource and introduce toll roads as the solution.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is quoted in the same press release as saying, “Bexar County approved the creation of the Alamo RMA to place local leaders in control of addressing our community’s transportation needs.”

The maps and diagrams that accompany this article show where the proposed toll roads will go and what the original traffic plan TxDot adopted and then abandoned in favor of creating toll roads to benefit commuters. Comal County residents are fortunate in that their locally elected officials will not allow toll roads to be built in Comal County.

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