US 281 Community Advisory Council Meeting

The last meeting of the Community Advisory Council (CAC) for the Environmental Impact Statement of US 281 Expansion project was held last night at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital to learn of the conclusions brought from 4+ years commitment to meeting regularly as community leaders and interested parties, with the various agencies that will ultimately be involved with the expansion of US 281.  Our goal was to provide community feedback and input to the process of revising an Environmental Impact Statement to allow the expansion of US Hwy 281 to continue in some form after exploring how it would impact neighborhoods near existing 281 who use this highway for business and personal travel, businesses that were impacted by the potential suggested options being proposed, neighboring communities who would be impacted by the noise, traffic and improvement of the existing highway, and people living north of the anticipated project who use 281 as their means to travel to and from San Antonio and the surrounding area.

For 4+ years discussions were held with many HOAs, neighborhood representatives, businesses, county and city agencies, TxDot, MPO, RMA, and more.  These meetings were scheduled to allow the varying opinions and interests to come together in a constructive manner to provide direct feedback as to how  alternatives proposed would or would not impact a neighborhood, a business, the environment, the aquifer, traffic patterns, and more.  Public meetings were also held to achieve feedback from the general public and websites and many additional means of communication were established to keep the public informed as this process made its way through the entire EIS.  It’s been an enlightening experience and interesting to learn so many diverse aspects of our community and it’s needs.  While the CAC had no authority for the final decision process, it was encouraging to see “regular people” have an active participation in the process and provide feedback which was given fair consideration during the process.  Highlights from the meeting are as follows:

The decision currently being proposed for approval is a combination of expressway lanes (or non-managed lanes) and toll lanes (or managed lanes).  The project will begin at the connectors from 1604 to 281 and run north just past Borgfeld Road.  The projected cost is $458 million and it will take approximately 4 years to complete.  Funds have already been set aside for the project from a range of funding agencies.  The toll portion once completed is projected to cost anywhere from .17 cents a mile to .50 cents a mile each way if you drive the toll portion of the road…that figure not determined at this date. 

The connectors coming from 1604 and being added to run into 281 coming from the east and west to head north have already been funded from a 30 million dollar fund that was provided to do the north south connectors coming from 281. 

There will be a VIA Park and Ride at the intersection of 281 and Stone Oak.  VIA has purchased the SW corner of Stone Oak Parkway and 281 to build the facility and is using VIA money solely for that construction, the additional on/off ramps and lanes that will be necessary for  the buses to navigate through the area.  Questions about that project should be addressed to VIA.

It should be noted that the (CAC) committee proposed three alternatives, no build, expressway and elevated expressway.  There was no favor given to the toll option as a potential alternative by the CAC committee.  However, the combination that has been given back to us appears to be a reasonable and combined solution that appears to meet the needs of the community and take that highway system into the future of its expected growth.  Tolls or managed lanes would not be my first choice, as it seems we have paid for our highway systems with taxes already provided. Apparently, there isn’t a way to expand this highway system effectively and meet the environmental, community, growth and business needs without adding toll lanes to allow for some through traffic to quickly move to and from their destinations.  We will be keeping 2 lanes on each side of the tolled lanes that allow for non-toll options to get to and from local stopping points throughout that project.  They will be similar to what we currently have with stop lights, driveways and such along the way.  There will be overpasses at the major intersections from Encino Rio, Evans, Stone Oak (which will ultimately be 3 level due to VIA’s needs), Wilderness Oak and Overlook Parkway will share one longer overpass, Bulverde Road and finally Borgfeld Road.  Work at Borgfeld will be completed to ease the steep grade at that intersection as this project and the current Borgfeld expansion project come together.  There was discussion about sound walls, bike trails, sidewalks and more as a part of the overall project.

There are a great many details which are difficult to provide in a condensed and readable version at this time, especially since it is still a draft proposal and in process for finalization at this time.  What is important is to let you all know that there will be a final public meeting for this proposal on May 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Summit Church, 2575 Marshall Road for the public to drop in and provide comment and view the project.  Additionally comments can be submitted through the web site.  If you want to see the project as proposed, ask questions and provide comment this is the place to do so.  Comments will be taken until June for feedback to be provided.

This is a huge project.  It is huge money.  It will take a long time and there will be construction delays and other difficulties while it is underway for anyone living north of the area and in the area of the construction proposed.  I urge you to voice your opinions to the agencies in attendance at the open house as well as via web comment.  This affects every property owner in Timberwood Park.  Whether you like the idea proposed or hate it, please provide feedback and comment to the process! 

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