ConnectSA plan would not require new taxes, but a big chunk of next bond package

First five years of plan require finding $1.4 billion, including about 70% of next city bond

San Antonio – A non-profit’s transportation and mobility plan would not require any new taxes over the next five years, but it could require moving a lot of money.

ConnectSA tri-chair Henry Cisneros briefed the San Antonio City Council on the group’s plan for 2020 to 2025, which included building up sidewalks, trails, separated bike lanes, roads, and highways. It also calls for growing a “Mobility on Demand” program from VIA, creating better bus service, and a new mode of mass transit called Advanced Rapid Transit (ART), which Cisneros described as a “trackless train.”

‘We cannot just build our way out of congestion’: ConnectSA presents future transportation and mobility options to City Council

The ConnectSA plan would require another $1.36 billion in funding over the next five years, Cisneros said. However, he said that could come from reallocating money, rather than raising any new taxes.

The funding options Cisneros laid out included redirecting existing sales tax revenue, using city and county capital funds, and leveraging about $267 million in federal funds.

The Texas Department of Transportation has also already allocated $3.8 billion of money to the San Antonio area, Cisneros said.

The biggest portion of the missing funding would come from the next voter-approved city bond, likely in 2022. Cisneros said the next bond could be up to $950 million with $665 million for transportation capital projects - about 70 percent of the total bond package.

Cisneros said experts told him transportation projects have made up about 55 percent of previous bond issues.

“So this is one of those big boy moments where you just say, ‘look, we have a problem, we need to deal with it,” Cisneros said.

Another critical funding piece would be using a 1/8 cent sales tax that currently funds linear creek parkways and the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program to provide an estimated $39.1 million annually after it expires in 2021.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has been leading the charge on that aspect, pushing for SAWS to take over the EAPP to ensure the program can continue after the 2021 expiration of the current tax.

However, Nirenberg also told reporters he was briefed Tuesday on option that would keep the EAPP under city control. So it isn’t yet clear where the program might land.

Both Nirenberg and Cisneros, though, acknowledged the desire to see the EAPP continue.

“This plan will probably not proceed if we haven’t addressed the water issue,” Cisneros said.

The city council will meet again for a working session on the plan on Feb. 19.

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