Mixed reaction to Cibolo's consideration of private toll road

Toll road idea stems from lack of city or state infrastructure funding

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter
CIBOLO, Texas -

The city has less than 30,000 people, yet in the future, it could have a toll road. Extreme and sudden growth has transformed Cibolo from a sleepy town into a traffic filled area. Everyone agrees something needs to be done, but a new idea is gaining controversy.

There are strings of new complexes and lines of traffic.

"Oh it's ridiculous, coming out of the neighborhood in the morning I'm waiting for a good 10 minutes just to get out of the neighborhood. It's backed up and it's just progressively gotten worse over the years," said Grant Boelter, who has lived in Cibolo for five years. 

He loves the community, but in the last 10 years the city has gained about 23,000 people, and he is one of many who thinks it's clear the infrastructure needs work.

"It's not so much necessarily the traffic today. It's the traffic that it's going to be in five years, 10 years, 20 years," said Cibolo Mayor Allen Dunn.

Dunn said the issue is funding. It would be too much for the city to take on alone.

"Cibolo specifically, what it would take for us to fund this project and what that would do to our tax rates, that would eliminate our ability to address any other problems for 20, 30 years," he said.

He said city leaders have been talking with the state about these issues for a decade. 

"TxDOT and the NPO would love to fund this for us, but they don't have the money and they have told us that repeatedly," Dunn said, saying TxDOT is focused on much bigger projects like Wurzbach Parkway and parts of 1604. 

So the option Cibolo City Council is considering is a private toll road. End-to-end the road would begin near FM 1103 and Wagon Wheel Road, where most of the congestion is, and stretch meet at Interstate 10. The road is tentatively being referred to as the Cibolo Parkway project.

Dunn said building the toll road would cost the taxpayers nothing. Private company Texas Turnpike Corp. would be investing in the road and funding studies and costs leading up to it. 

"I'm all for it. Just to save some time, yeah, because it's a lot of time you're wasting in your car every day," Boelter said.

There is support in town, but there are is also a group in the city strongly opposing the project. 

"They're worried one, about the use of eminent domain for a private, for-profit toll road. They're worried about law enforcement being used for toll collection. They're also worried about public money and the taxpayers having to foot the bill and bail this thing out at some point down the road. We're also worried about loss of control over our public infrastructure," said Terri Hall with the Texas for Toll Free Highways.

Hall has even created a petition for the Cibolo Parkway project.

The issues opponents raised were voiced at Tuesday's public meeting. It was the last one before the council votes on whether to allow the private company to start studying the area where the road would go. Traffic, economic, environmental and other factors are all a part of this feasibility study. That vote to allow the study would happen around November. 

Dunn wants the public to know that doesn't mean they would be approving the project. 

"We're really on about step three of maybe a 40-step process," Dunn said. "We're simply going through the process to see if this is a good idea for us, if this is a fit for our city."

 

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