Monday, September 14, 2009

"Bexar County residents deserve to know whether something more than incompetence on the part of the state's transportation authorities is to blame."

Answers needed on TxDOT report


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2009

At first glance, it seems like a joke.

The Texas Department of Transportation compiles a list of the 100 most congested road sections in the state, and what is widely believed to be the most congested road section in Bexar County doesn't even make the list: U.S. 281 from Loop 1604 to the Comal County line.

Eight roadways in Bexar County did make the list, including multiple segments of Interstate 35 and Interstate 10. The worst-ranked section locally — 10th on the statewide list — is a portion of Interstate 35 from U.S. 90 West on the Southwest Side to U.S. 281 north of downtown.

A TxDOT explanation of the congestion on this stretch of Interstate 35 notes: “A trip that takes 20 minutes in free-flow conditions will take approximately 33 minutes during rush hour.”

While that may be bad, many commuters can attest that the rush-hour congestion on U.S. 281 north of Loop 1604 is much worse. So how is it possible that TxDOT failed to place it on the list?

The TxDOT methodology describes a multistep process of compiling a statewide database of major roadways, review by “transportation staff familiar with the local road network” and the calculation of congestion measures by the Texas Transportation Institute.

Perhaps the initial database was deeply flawed and failed to identify U.S. 281 north of Loop 1604 for congestion problems. Even if this were the case, TxDOT experts who have familiarity with Bexar County roadways should have caught this glaring error as part of their review.

Either way, TxDOT — not the Texas Transportation Institute — flubbed the process. And the result is much worse than a joke.

Highway funds will naturally flow to the worst congested roadways in the state. Assuming the legal and environmental hurdles for construction on U.S. 281 are ever surpassed, it's not even on the list of priority projects.

Local leaders should be outraged at the TxDOT report. Bexar County residents who suffer through bumper-to-bumper commutes on U.S. 281 deserve to know whether something more than incompetence on the part of the state's transportation authorities is to blame.

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