The Texas Department of Transportation began gathering public input for its long-range transportation plan at a Tuesday evening open house at TxDOT’s San Antonio district office.
Spokesman Hernan Rozemberg said like its 2040 predecessor, the Texas Transportation Plan 2050 would help prioritize projects and direct funding. There are about 314,000 miles of public roads in the state, and right now, a lot of funding goes toward building roads and highways. But that’s not all TxDOT wants to focus on, Rozemberg said.
“Obviously there’s no sugarcoating the need for [alleviating] capacity issues on our highways, especially in San Antonio” given how quickly the city is growing, he said. “People are saying you can’t just build your way out of it, and we understand, which is why we’re asking for other ideas.”
Dozens of people attended the open house on Tuesday, the first stop of a 14-city public input tour. They asked TxDOT staffers questions and browsed different display boards featuring information on fatality rates on Texas roadways, where TxDOT funding goes, how the transportation department generates revenue, and more.
TxDOT representatives were also on hand to elaborate on the “Beyond the Road” initiative, which enlists the expertise of historians, archaeologists, biologists, and others before the department builds roads. TxDOT considers the state’s natural, historical and community resources and works to protect endangered species and preserve history, said Laura Cruzada, public involvement specialist for TxDOT’s Environmental Affairs Division.
Rozemberg said because Tuesday’s open house is the very beginning of the 2050 plan development process, the transportation department wanted to keep public comment prompts as broad as possible. TxDOT presented information on bicycle and pedestrian networks, airports, and passenger rail and asked attendees what they want to see in the future of Texas transportation.
“We really do want the public to weigh in as much as they want,” Rozemberg said. “We don’t want people to feel they’re limited to just telling us about highways.”
Ingrid Wilgen said she prioritizes mass transit options like buses and rail. Though San Antonio has a bus system in place, VIA Metropolitan Transit needs to expand, she said.
“When you have to wait over an hour for a bus, there’s something wrong,” Wilgen said.
Carl Bradtmiller works as a community educator for the Ghisallo Cycling Initiative, teaching children bike safety and related skills at schools in San Antonio. A bike commuter himself, he said he wants to see TxDOT pay more attention to transportation options beyond single-occupancy vehicles.
“When decisions are being made about the long-range transportation future, then you want to make sure you’re factoring alternative transportation,” Bradtmiller said. “Who knows if people will have personal vehicles in 2050? You need to make sure you’re being proactive and not reactive, and thinking about low-cost, low-impact transportation options.”
Rozemberg said citizens’ most common complaint is traffic congestion. But on Tuesday people spoke primarily about safety concerns and having multiple transportation options, said Casey Dusza, statewide planning branch manager for TxDOT.
“We want to make sure this is a multimodal statewide plan,” Dusza said. “That includes rail, aviation, transit — all modes included.”
Rozemberg said TxDOT in February would make a virtual open house available on its website, where people can browse display boards with facts and figures online. Visitors can then leave feedback and ideas for TxDOT to incorporate into Plan 2050.
To ask questions, share comments, or receive updates on the Plan 2050 development process, email TTP_2050@txdot.gov.