Before they wrapped up their third special session, the Texas Legislature ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to find $100 million to cut from its budget.

TxDOT has a plan to save $165 million dollars, but that proposal isn't going over very well because it calls for turning control of some state-owned roads over to local governments.

In a letter dated August 13, Executive Director Phil Wilson informed local politicians TxDOT is "considering a highway transfer turnback program that will allow the transfer of state-owned roads, that are functionally local, from the state back to the local governments."

Wilson wrote, "the program is envisioned as a cooperative venture between TxDOT and local jurisdictions to increase local control."

While the 'turnback' program would require local governments to take over the financial burden of maintaining those roads, Wilson highlighted benefits such as "the ability to control driveway access, speed limits, on-street parking, road closures and the ability to control maintenance scheduling that is more responsive to the needs of local residents and businesses."

State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon was not happy with the cost saving proposal.

"I thought it was pretty ridiculous," McClendon said. "To me that's and unfunded mandate."

McClendon sent a letter back to Wilson, telling him the proposal was a bad idea.

"It's going to be a big burden on San Antonio and Bexar County because they have not planned for this in their budget," McClendon said. "I want them to save money of course, but I want them to save it in the right way and not put that burden upon the cities."

Non-Freeway highways in San Antonio

In a map provided by TxDOT, several roads in San Antonio and Bexar County are highlighted in red that are proposed to be part of the ‘turnback’ program.
Many were originally built as farm-to-market roads but have evolved into local thoroughfares like Fredericksburg, Bandera and Culebra Roads.

McClendon estimated it would cost about $14 million to turn the roads back over to local control, that's on top of the money already being spent by the city and county to maintain their share of local roads.

Bexar County spokeswoman Laura Jesse said the county has set aside $26 million next year for its Road and Bridge Fund which covers about 13-hundred miles of roads.

"We know that if they do turn something over obviously there is going to be an impact to our Road and Bridge Fund, we just don't know what that exact impact is right now," Jesse said. "I suppose we would have to work those roads into our regular maintenance schedule of the roads that we do already maintain and just try to find more efficient and better ways to do the maintenance."

A representative for Mayor Julian Castro said the city is still trying to learn more about the proposal and its potential impact to the city's budget.

McClendon said she expects a fight over the issue.

"I don't think it's just going to go by quietly, so we'll see," she said.

TxDOT is expected to discuss the proposal at its August 29th Commission meeting but no action will be taken.

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.