Saturday, August 27, 2005

MPO Chairman Perez and TxDOT Representatives try to squelch independent review of state toll road plans in San Antonio

Toll foes score small win with planning board


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Motorists outraged over proposed toll-road plans in San Antonio have gotten their foot in the door and are turning up the volume.

San Antonio Texas Toll Party, led by Terri Hall of Spring Branch, persuaded the Metropolitan Planning Organization earlier this week to at least consider an independent review of state toll road plans here.

The planning board, which gave the green light to those plans last summer because of funding shortfalls, has called a special meeting for 3 p.m. Wednesday at VIA Metro Center, 1021 San Pedro Ave.

But board members — a collection of representatives from the city, county, state and VIA Metropolitan Transit — disagreed on whether the issue should even be on an agenda.

City Councilman Richard Perez, who took over as MPO chairman last month, said he doesn't see the purpose of doing a review.

"What is it going to tell us?" he said. "I don't understand what the goal is there."

Longtime board member Tommy Adkisson, a county commissioner, last week failed to get Perez to put the issue on last Monday's agenda — perhaps because of miscommunications, Adkisson surmised.

Then at the Monday meeting, Perez and two Texas Department of Transportation representatives on the board tried to block attempts to call the special meeting, but they were outvoted.

Adkisson was left shaking his head and wondering why some board members would want to squelch discussion on whether to conduct a review.

"I was very disappointed, naturally," he said. "The guy (Perez) that I still have great regard for is voting in a fashion that I can't explain."

With about 60 miles of toll roads on the table over the next 25 years and construction starting on the first lanes next year, the stakes are too high to be hasty, Adkisson said.

"The community is entitled to a moment of thoughtfulness before we dive headlong into two feet of water from a 50-foot perch," he said. "I'm not afraid of bold decisions here, but I want to avoid a reckless plunging into toll roads that may be something far different than what we believe to be the case."

Adkisson predicted that the MPO board will agree to do an independent review.

Perez said he's not sure what the board will do but his vote on Wednesday shouldn't come as a surprise.

"I voted to not even have the meeting, so that gives you an idea where I'm going," he said.

Meanwhile, Hall is lining up the troops for the meeting and passing out phone numbers and e-mails of the 17 voting board members.
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