Loop 1604, Hwy. 151 spider find proves costly

Existence of endangered Meshweaver spider requires expensive traffic project redesign

Author: Ursula Pari, Anchor, upari@ksat.com
Published On: Oct 02 2012 04:05:20 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 02 2012 05:36:00 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

Two weeks ago, when Texas Department of Transportation engineers working at Loop 1604 and Highway 151 found a hole filled with the Bracken Bat Cave Meshweaver spider, it was announced all work on the traffic congestion project would stop temporarily.

On Tuesday, TxDOT and Bexar County Commissioners are learning that the entire project will have to return to the drawing board for a redesign that may cost taxpayers an additional $15 million to $20 million.

TxDOT spokesman Josh Donat said, “Obviously, this is a priority for us. We are absolutely committed to getting this road built to address congestion and provide safe routes for folks. That said, we don’t have a specific timeline in mind at this point.”

The intersection is considered to have the worst congestion in the city, with an estimated 80,000 vehicles a day using the lanes there.

The work on an underpass there was expected to be completed in one year.

Now, it could be two to three years, and the cost may easily double -- or worse -- according to Bexar County Commissioners.

Estimates on the spider redesign will take the $15 million project upwards into the $30 million to $40 million realm.

Commissioner Kevin Wolf said, “This is where government goes crazy. I get the Environmental Protection Agency. I get endangered species. I support a lot of that. But when it crosses into this level of ridiculousness, it drives me crazy and I know it’s got to drive the general public crazy.”

It’s unclear whether TxDOT and Bexar County, who share the cost of the project, will receive any funding relief from Texas Fish and Wildlife, the EPA or another federal agency.

Meantime, the implications of the geological find are remarkable to environmentalists.

The Bracken Bat Cave Meashweaver was first discovered in a cave near the site three decades ago, but a housing development sealed it off and the spider has not been seen since.

“What’s really exciting about this discovery is the opportunity to find out what this spider does, and the genetic implications here,” said Donat.

He thinks researchers may find ways to help the endangered spider proliferate now that another habitat has been discovered.

Wolf says the public will learn more about the new design and timeline on Friday.

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