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TxDOT asserts control of Broadway, potentially affecting redevelopment plans

The move surprised San Antonio officials, who maintain the state is reneging on a deal struck in 2014.

SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Transportation Commission will meet Thursday to make clear that TxDOT controls a two mile stretch of Broadway in San Antonio, between Burr Rd. and Interstate 35. 

The move shocked city leaders, who believe the state transferred control of the road to the city in 2014. San Antonio has since redeveloped a portion of the corridor, with plans for further construction. 

"We have a project that's fully underway," Mayor Ron Nirenberg told KENS 5 Wednesday. "It's absurd that, all of a sudden after six years, they would try to rescind that order and pretend it didn't happen."

But TxDOT officials maintain the state never completed its transfer, in part, because the city has not completed environmental clearance for the project. 

"Therefore, no project acceptance letter has been issued that would trigger the removal of the roadway from the state's highway system," reads a letter obtained by KENS 5 from Texas Transportation Commission director Marc Williams to San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh. 

It's not clear how nixing a portion of the city's plans for Broadway's redevelopment will impact the remainder of the proposal, which voters approved in 2017. 

Nirenberg says he fears the move could spook investors that intended to develop the area. 

"Where does all that go? I have no idea. I don't think the state has answers, either," he said. "The impacts of this decision... cannot be understated."

The transportation commissioners object, primarily, to a portion of the plan which would reduce Broadway from three lanes to two lanes. It would also eliminate some turn lanes. 

The road diet would create more space for pedestrians. It could also reduce traffic backups along the corridor, city engineers say. 

But TxDOT maintains the plan would push more traffic to already-congested roads, like U.S. Highway 281. 

"These local proposals would result in a significant increase in congestion," TxDOT communications officer Bob Kaufman said in a statement. "TxDOT remains focused on strategies to decrease congestion and will work with the City and other local stakeholders to develop solutions for (Broadway) that serve to maintain the existing three lanes in each direction while addressing the mobility and safety needs of all users."

City leaders dispute the assertion that the move would create more traffic. 

"I trust the engineers who are actually doing the work in the community that's supported this project," Nirenberg said, making reference to analysis conducted during the project's planning phase. 

The state says San Antonio inappropriately granted permission for property owners to use state right-of-way without permission. 

Williams' letter also scolded city leaders for telling the media TxDOT transferred control of the road. 

Even the governor's office weighed into the dispute. 

“Governor Abbott’s priority is to alleviate congestion on our state highway system," spokesperson Nan Tolson said in a statement. "A recent local proposal to remove travel lanes along (Broadway), which has been and continues to be on the state highway system, would run counter to that goal."

TxDOT officials say they're eager to work with city leaders on a potential solution. 

The commission meets at 10 a.m. in Austin Thursday. 

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