TxDOT Wants Bigger Texas Cities To Take Control Of Roads

Sep 18, 2013

Many of the roads that take you to work, school, the grocery store and home are owned and maintained by the state, but the Texas Department of Transportation wants to transfer control of those roads to cities with more than 50,000 people.

Generally speaking, cities don't want that burden.

TxDOT's program would shift $165 million in costs to cities. The San Antonio Public Works and Budget Departments estimate the transfer would cost the city $11.6 million annually. The city just closed a $50 million shortfall with the approval of its new budget last week.

According to San Antonio Intergovernmental Relations Director Jeff Coyle, TxDOT approached cities over the summer with a mandate that they take control of nearly 1,900 miles of roads in the state. In San Antonio, that meant 129 miles, he said.

"Cities universally reacted negatively," said Coyle. "Cities from all across the state came to the Transportation Commission at the end of August and said, 'We cannot accept this as a mandatory -- this is an unfunded mandate. You cannot tell us that we are responsible for maintaining what have been state roads for many, many years'"

The reaction pushed TxDOT into a corner, so the agency is now offering voluntary transfers and a one-time, $22,000 incentive per lane mile switched over.

But cities like San Antonio don't see a benefit. In fact, said Coyle, it's the opposite.

"In theory, the benefits are local control for the roads and the ability to put bike lanes, put on-street parking, put landscaping, do the sorts of things that generally TxDOT does not approve because their function is carrying vehicular traffic and not the other functions," Coyle said.

City leaders are expected to further analyze how local control would be of help to residents in those communities. Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras told the city council's governance committee members Wednesday that some cities in the Valley are trying to figure out how to redevelop the areas that couldn't be worked with under state control.

“We have to really decide if there are any roads that are of such importance redevelopment wise that that would make sense but from a pure financial cost-benefit analysis, the cost to the city of assuming responsibility for any of these roads would be much greater than the incentive the state would provide us," said Coyle.

There is no timeline, and Coyle said leaders will need to do a lot of work before approaching TxDOT with any proposal.

The San Antonio roads under state control included in the discussion are:

Austin Highway, Bandera Road, Blanco Road, Culebra Road, E. Houston, Eckert Road, Fredericksburg Road, Grissom Road, Hausman Road, Military Highway, Nacogdoches Road, New Laredo Highway, Nogalitos, Old Pearsall Road, Potranco Road, Rigsby, Roosevelt Avenue, San Pedro Avenue, South Presa Road, Spur 66 (the entrance to Toyota), UTSA Boulevard, Wurzbach Parkway and WW White Road.