Thursday, August 27, 2009

Latest sub-regional planning commission would provide a check on runaway Alamo Regional Mobility Authority

Cities partner to address 281/1604 project together


By Christine Stanley - Contributing Writer/North Central News
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2009

Hill Country Village is joining forces with Hollywood Park to form a sub-regional planning commission that would tackle the U.S. 281/Loop 1604 interchange revamp — and any other state or federal project that may affect the two cities.

Hollywood Park City Councilman Bob Sartor got the green light from his colleagues to start work on the commission last month. Hill Country Village council members approved the move Aug. 20.

State and federal law allows for at least two governing agencies — at the city or county level, or both — to form a sub-regional planning commission to promote the coordinated development of a particular region.

Such a commission can do that in a number of ways, including recommendations to higher governmental authorities on how to proceed with a particular project.

In this case, the sub-regional planning commission would focus on Alamo Regional Mobility Authority's proposed $140 million plan for the 281/1604 interchange.

ARMA plans to build four elevated “direct connectors” between the two highways that would connect travelers on 281 north to the east and west sides of 1604, and two more connectors would take travelers from both sides of the loop to 281 south.

Construction could begin as early as next year.

ARMA is reaching out to Hollywood Park, Hill Country Village and surrounding cities through its own citizen advisory groups and public meetings, but Sartor reminded Hollywood Park residents last month that the agency has no legal obligation to meet with any community.

By law, ARMA would have to meet with the sub-regional planning commission and take any of its recommendations into consideration before making a final decision on the connector project.

Hollywood Park council members have expressed concern about negative impacts to their constituents during and after construction.

Hill Country Village Mayor Kirk Francis said he is worried about ARMA's true intentions. He reminded his colleagues that ARMA was originally created by the state Legislature as a tolling authority.

“So I'm kind of curious why ARMA is hosting all these meetings that have to do with what's supposed to be a TxDOT project,” Francis said Aug. 20.

ARMA has stressed on its Web site and in recent public meetings that the 281/1604 interchange will not be tolled.

Francis said the two cities will work out bylaws for the sub-regional planning commission during the next few weeks. It appears the commission will include Francis and Hollywood Park Mayor Richard McIlveen, a council member from each city and a resident designee appointed by each mayor.

“Right now, (ARMA) can tell us after the fact, they can invite us to meetings — that's their form of communication,” Francis said.

He said the panel would also bring both cities closer in addressing health and safety issues of mutual interest.

Hill Country Village council members also approved a contract with Acadian Ambulance Service Aug. 20.

Francis was the tiebreaker in a vote to sever ties with San Antonio EMS last month. He broke a tie between council members Gabriel Durand-Hollis and Margaret Mayberry, who were in favor of sticking with San Antonio EMS, and Register and Elizabeth Worley, who wanted to switch to Acadian.

The ambulance provider would incorporate Hill Country Village into its coverage area for free, saving the city about $35,000 each year.

© 2009 San Antonio Express-News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE