San Antonio – Five years later, the fight over the name of a four-mile stretch of roadway on the West Side is back on again, as residents and business owners push to bring back the “Old Highway 90″ name with a slightly different twist.
Carrying a “Viva Old Hwy 90″ sign and wearing similarly embroidered shirts, three members of the Save Old Hwy 90 Alliance submitted an application Friday morning to rename - or more accurately, re-rename - Enrique M. Barrera Parkway as “Historic Old Highway 90.”
The same group was behind a failed attempt to change the street name back to Old Highway 90 in December 2016. The initial name change was in September 2015, in honor of the former councilman and Edgewood ISD trustee, Enrique Barrera, who died in 2007.
As a direct result of that fight, city council passed an ordinance a few months later, which requires street name changes to stand for at least five years. That put a halt to any further attempts to rename the roadway - at least until now.
Though they were further delayed from launching their second effort because of the COVID-19 pandemic, time has done little to the alliance’s passion.
The name change to Enrique M. Barrera Parkway causes confusion for businesses, they say, and Old Highway 90 is part of their identity.
“It’s like taking a relative away. It’s like somebody died,” said Eiginio Rodriguez, who has lived in the area for more than 50 years.
Javier Gutierrez, the owner of Del Bravo Record Shop, says when people call in to get the address of the shop, the shop “always” has to clarify that it’s where Old Highway 90 used to be.
“Even after six years,” Gutierrez said. “But our pride, our name, our identity is Old Highway 90. That’s who we are.”
Michael Cooremans, the owner of 4M Auto Supply and the third member of the group submitting the application at the city’s development and business services center, said they were there representing the community.
“We’ve listened to a lot of people, and we’re still hearing it today -- ‘when we gonna get the name back? When we gonna get the name back?’” Cooremans said.
The battle over the roadway’s name started after former District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez pushed to change the street name to honor Barrera in July 2014.
Though Cooremans, Gutierrez, Rodriguez, and others spoke against the proposed change during a September 2015 council meeting, the entire city council, with the exception of one absent councilman, voted to approve it.
A month later, Lopez referenced the fight over the roadway’s name in his January 2017 council consideration request, which proposed amending the city code so that any street name changes would be locked in for at least five years.
The city council agreed with him, voting 10-1 in favor of the ordinance in May 2017.
Though the five-year time limit put a new campaign on hold, the alliance did not completely fade away.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED...
Five years after their last effort, the alliance appears to be in a stronger position.
Whereas before they were fighting directly against the wishes of their city councilman, this time, they have their councilwoman’s support.
District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda told KSAT in a statement:
“I support the community’s decision to reclaim the Enrique Barrera Pkwy’s historic Old Highway 90 name. While I honor the former Councilman Barrera’s legacy and have deep respect for his family, I am also committed to honor and support the District 6 community’s wishes. This change is something the community has wanted for some time and I support their formalizing the change process.”
The name change would cost about $163,000 to replace all the signs, Cooremans said
Asked about the accuracy of that figure, the city’s Director of Development Services Michael Shannon told KSAT “that’s about right.”
“I do know it’s going to be over $100,000 because it’s not just city signs. It’s TXDOT signs, and those are fairly pricey,” Shannon said. “So while I don’t have the exact number, but that’s probably about accurate.”
Cooremans said the group is working on some private fundraising, but they aren’t close to that full amount.
A NEW TWIST ON THE “OLD HIGHWAY 90″
Though the alliance is pushing for the return of the Old Highway 90 name to return, it’s not a complete reversal.
Instead, they’re asking to rename the roadway as “Historic Old Highway 90,” a name which already appears in a smaller font under the current “Enrique M. Barrera Parkway” street signs.
Cooremans told KSAT that when the alliance applied to the U.S. Postal Service for approval of different name possibilities - a prerequisite for applying to the city - they were told that the city had already previously gotten approval for “Historic Old Highway 90.”
Hearing that, Cooremans said he decided he liked that name even better.
“That puts a stamp it,” he told KSAT. “That way nobody else comes messing with it.”
However, Cooremans says it would be up to the community whether it wants to go with the “Historic Old Highway 90″ or the original “Old Highway 90″ name.
It will likely be another three to four months before the application could get a council vote.
Shannon says his staff will do a completeness review to ensure they have everything they need for the application, followed by a technical review.
An open community meeting, or possibly two, will follow, he said. After that, the application goes to the planning commission and then to the city council, which will consider the input from the commission and the community meetings.