Battle for Broadway: state poised to reverse hand-off of 2.2-mile stretch to City of San Antonio

TxDOT says city’s plan to reduce traffic lanes is behind the pending reversal of 2014 decision

Battle for Broadway: state poised to reverse hand-off to San Antonio of 2.2 mile stretch

SAN ANTONIOUpdate: The livestream has ended.

More than seven years after it moved to hand control of a 2.2-mile stretch of Broadway Avenue over to the City of San Antonio, the state is set to reverse course and keep it under the Texas Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction.

City officials have been caught off guard by the move, which could bring their plans for redesigning the corridor to a halt, after years of effort and millions of dollars.

The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees TxDOT, is scheduled to vote Thursday to rescind orders from December 2014 and February 2015 that allowed the transfer of a stretch of State Loop 368 to the City of San Antonio. That portion of state highway between between I-35 and Burr Road, at the Alamo Heights City Limits, overlaps with Broadway.

This 2.2 mile stretch of SL-368/Broadway Avenue between I-35 to the south, and Burr Road to the north are part of the state highway system. The Texas Transportation Commission issued orders in December 2014 ann February 2015 allowing its transfer to the City of San Antonio. However, the hand-off has not been officially completed, and the TTC is considering reversing its decision. (Texas Department of Transportation)

However, the state says the transfer was contingent upon a project acceptance letter, which has not been issued; so the section of road between I-35 and Burr Road is still part of the state highway system, and the TTC is poised to keep it that way.

Since the original 2014 decision, the city has made extensive plans for developing the Broadway corridor, all the way into the city-controlled portions downtown. It says it has $95.7 million in funding committed for the project from various sources.

City voters approved funding for work between Houston Street and Hildebrand Avenue as part of the 2017 Bond Program. Director of San Antonio’s Public Works Department, Razi Hosseini, says the city has spent $3 million on just the state-owned portion of the corridor, though construction has not yet begun on that portion.

The City of San Antonio has begun work already between Houston Street and I-35, which it already controls. The city has spent $3 million on the redesign of the currently state-controlled portion north of I-35, though construction has not begun.

Construction has already started on the city-owned portion of Broadway downtown, between Houston Street and I-35.

A key part of the city’s plans include reducing the number of traffic lanes on the northern portion of the Broadway corridor from six down to four, to allow for wider sidewalks, more landscaping, and protected bike lanes.

The City of San Antonio's plans for the Broadway corridor north of I-35 include reducing the number of traffic lanes from six down to four. (City of San Antonio)

That element of the city design plans, although known publicly for years, has prompted the state to recently withdraw its support for the handoff.

A TxDOT spokesman emailed KSAT the following statement:

“On Thursday, January 27, the Texas Transportation Commission will consider a minute order that will confirm that State Loop 368, Broadway, in the City of San Antonio has been and continues to be part of the state highway system. This action would rescind prior minute orders that considered a future transfer of the SL 368 to the City of San Antonio. This action is needed as a result of local proposals to convert the existing three lanes to two lanes in each direction and remove turn lanes along SL 368. These local proposals would result in a significant increase in congestion. TxDOT remains focused on strategies to decrease congestion and will work with the City and other local stakeholders to develop solutions for SL 368 that serve to maintain the existing three lanes in each direction while addressing the mobility and safety needs of all users.”

A spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a statement on Wednesday evening:

“Governor Abbott’s priority is to alleviate congestion on our state highway system. A recent local proposal to remove travel lanes along SL 368, which has been and continues to be on the state highway system, would run counter to that goal. The Governor supports TxDOT’s efforts to ensure mobility and maintain capacity along this roadway while developing solutions that meet the needs of the local community.”

City officials, though, say the plans for the Broadway corridor have been in the works since 2016, and TxDOT was well aware of them. So the rejection of a fundamental part of the plans has taken them by surprise.

“There’s no logic behind it. We’re still waiting for answers,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Wednesday.

Hosseini said the city heard “verbally” from the state in November and then in writing on Jan. 7 that the lane reductions were not acceptable. The Jan. 7 letter was when the state told them it was going to rescind the orders permitting the transfer of Broadway Avenue, he said.

The state has cited a traffic study from 2016 and 2017 showing possible traffic backup or congestion, Hosseini said.

“But they never really shared with us those traffic study. And also, that traffic study, if is even true, that’s six, seven years old. And also, they told us they had some - received some complaint, or the chairman has received some complaint,” Hosseini said.

The commission’s chairman, J. Bruce Bugg Jr., is a banker from San Antonio whom Abbott reappointed in February 2021. Hosseini said the city did not know from where the complaints had come.

Even if there were complaints, the public works director said, the city should have had an opportunity to address them.”

“But we had no opportunity to discuss this with them other than just telling, ‘We are going to rescind,” Hosseini said.

Though city officials have asked the TTC and TxDOT to pull or delay the vote on rescinding the orders, it appears it will happen as planned.

We met with them yesterday online, and they were basically acknowledge that they should have told us a long time ago, but they are not going to change their position,” Hosseini said.

The commission is scheduled to meet Thursday at 10 a.m. in Austin. The meeting will be available to watch online here.

KSAT Q&A: San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg discusses state’s plan to reverse control of Broadway

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined Wednesday's KSAT Q&A to discuss the Texas Transportation Commission's plan to claim Broadway Street as a part of the Texas highway system six years after giving control to the city.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.