Street car funding opponents ask for Texas Attorney General's opinion

VIA plans to use portion of sales tax revenue

Published On: Mar 27 2012 06:14:01 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 27 2012 08:17:40 PM CDT

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been asked by Texas Sen. Jeff Wentworth to weigh in on the use of Advanced Transportation District funding to pay for a street car system in downtown San Antonio.

“Government needs to keep faith with the voters. Deliver what they promised and not pull a bait and switch,” Wentworth said.

He said voters were told during the 2004 election that led to the creation of the ATD that light rail would not be included.

Supporters of the project have maintained street cars are not light rail.

“If you want trolleys, go to Disneyland,” said George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party.

Rodriguez said he began raising the issue believing the free market, not subsidies, should pay for downtown redevelopment.

“This is not an organization throwing a tantrum, saying, 'No, no, no,'” Rodriguez said. “This is a violation of the public trust.”

However, Henry Munoz, VIA board chairman, said the funding of street cars falls under the category of “other advanced transportation purposes.”

“Expenditures should be an appropriate mix of high school construction and multi-modal funding and that’s what we’re attempting to do,” Munoz said.

Opponents said they also are concerned the ATD funds will be tied up for ten years and not used for highway road construction as originally intended.

In a statement, VIA outlined four county road construction projects that totaled $101.85 million that used ATD dollars to supplement state and federal funding.

Wentworth said the Attorney General’s opinion may take up to six months after rigorous review of the issue from all sides.