The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been holding a series of open houses around the state this fall, inviting community members to provide feedback on Texas Transportation Plan 2050 (TTP 2050).

The plan for a “multimodal transportation system” will implement goals in the Texas Transportation Commission’s (TTC) 2019-2023 strategic plan, and build on existing work produced for the previous statewide long-range transportation plan.

More than 20 San Antonio residents attended TxDOT’s latest TTP 2050 open house Tuesday at the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) headquarters. The open houses are part of a second phase of public outreach efforts toward developing the new transportation plan, which TxDOT expects to release in February after TTC gives the document final approval.

TTP 2050 will also summarize current and future transportation system conditions, needs, revenue sources, funding gaps, and data for all modes of existing and potential future transit. Aside from traditional civilian roadways, TTP covers freight, railways, aviation, waterways, pipelines, as well as bicycle facilities and pedestrian paths.

“With 1,000 people moving to Texas a day, we are expecting growth,” said Laura Lopez, public information officer for the TxDOT-San Antonio District office.

“We are looking 30 years down the road to see what transportation is going to be like, what is the funding going to be like. This is an opportunity for us to get feedback from the public that will help us with our long-term plan for future projects.”

The development of Texas Transportation Plan 2050 has the following general goals: enhance safety, preserve infrastructure, optimize movement of people and goods, sustainably fund and effectively deliver the right projects, communicate effectively with the public and partner organizations, and protect neighborhoods and the environment.

During the 90-minute San Antonio open house, residents like Julia Norton Keidel looked over story boards showing TxDOT’s aims in putting together the transportation plan.

Keidel explained to the Rivard Report that she observes transportation systems and designs in cities she visits. 

In Kansas City, Kan., where her son lives, Keidel sees “enormous rights-of-way” that she wishes could be better preserved in Texas to help accommodate future growth and transportation projects. 

“That way you’re not locked into Method A or Method B because you’ve allowed yourself options,” Keidel said. 

“Nowhere in here do I see any description of rights-of-way or the importance of that. I think that’s an enormous oversight.”

Keidel offered ideas, one being the public use of free trolleys in the downtown area. Keidel said she has seen a program in Charleston, South Carolina, where tourists and downtown workers use the local trolley. Downtown workers there typically park in a nearby park-and-ride spot and ride the trolley to their destination.

“It’s nice-looking, it takes pressure off infrastructure, it takes pressure off of having so many parking garages downtown because these are free, jump-on-every-15-minute trolleys,” Keidel added.

According to the planning process, TTP 2050 will focus on how best TxDOT can plan for potential benefits and risks of emerging technologies, such as connected and self-driving vehicles, telecommuting, and drone delivery.

Keidel suggested the use of technology where people working in the same area, at the same employer or heading to the same errand can instantly contact each other and arrange for carpools to help reduce traffic congestion.

Jonathan Bean, director of transportation, planning and development for TxDOT San Antonio District, said that technology has come up frequently in open houses in the area.

“Some people feel we need to continue expanding roadways, some say there should be more and stronger mass transit systems,” Bean added.

“A recurring theme, from what I’ve been hearing, is that technology is going to play a role as we grow our future transportation system. I don’t doubt that will be true.”

The public has through Nov. 15 to provide input on the transportation plan by visiting the TxDOT website and completing the Engage in the Planning Process survey.

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.