Public transit, road improvements among infrastructure priorities in San Antonio region

New report outlines needs from across the country

SAN ANTONIO – Even as Congress is set to give final approval to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan as soon as Wednesday, leaders are turning to another administration priority: improving the nation’s infrastructure.

A new report outlines what projects that agencies in regions across the country want to tackle if more federal funding becomes available.

The report by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, in collaboration with former San Antonio Mayor and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, identified more than 1,800 high-priority infrastructure projects.

‘People talk about infrastructure as being this this gray, boring industrial kind of concept,” Cisneros said in an interview. “It’s easy to take for granted but a city that doesn’t pay attention to its infrastructure is not paying attention to its future.”

The report identified several key priorities in San Antonio and Bexar County, including improvements at San Antonio International Airport and Port San Antonio, as well as public transit.

“Our transit system doesn’t go deep enough into the neighborhoods that we saw when essential workers needed to get to work, they had no other means but public transit, they had to be there and we just didn’t have the system,” Cisneros said. “We need to put in some more rapid routes, what they call advanced rapid transit. We need to do some of the more modern things like what they call mobility on demand.”

Austin has launched a similar on-demand service called Pickup, in which people can use an app or call to request rides like Uber or Lyft. By the end of the month it will be available in eight zones in Travis and Williamson Counties.

Via Metropolitan Transit has some ambitious plans for more rapid transit routes and will have access to more local funding once a new sales tax allocation is approved by voters and takes effect in 2026. But it will still need federal funding to help make those plans a reality.

Leaders also identified major projects on area highways like I-35 as priorities, at least in the short term.

“We continue to depend on automobiles and freeways and highways, and that’s very, very important. It’s also true, however, that we can accomplish a lot of other goals with better public transit,” Cisneros said. “The answer is any strategic balanced infrastructure program for our country will have to include a mix of transportation modes, highways, roads, yes, but also mass transit, mobility on demand, rail etc.”

It wasn’t just transportation on the list. Leaders also cited the need to invest in improved electric and water infrastructure, as well as providing wider broadband access.

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