Editorial: Invest in highways to keep city moving

San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 09/29/2003 12:00 AM

Unpleasant evidence that San Antonio must invest more local funds in highways continues to slap the city in the face.
The latest startling development was the Texas Department of Transportation decision to force a $13.8 million refund of federal dollars allocated to the city during the past four years.

The decision was based on the agency's assessment that San Antonio's population growth in recent years lagged in comparison to other cities competing for highway dollars under a federal formula.

The situation is yet another wake-up call for the San Antonio region. Area officials would like to see state leaders raise motor fuel taxes for transportation, but they can't count on it. The clear trend from the federal and state levels of government is to push tax burdens to the local level.

More local dollars must be put into highways or San Antonio drivers are destined to be mired in traffic congestion.

Transportation officials attending a recent San Antonio forum sent the message strongly. Express-News staff writer Patrick Driscoll reported the bad news: the dearth of available state funding means traffic congestion will be 60 percent worse in 25 years - unless San Antonio takes action.

Steps already are being taken. Commissioners Court has asked the Texas Transportation Commission to approve plans for a regional mobility authority, which will be empowered to start a toll road system in Bexar County.

The mobility authority will need more options than tolls for raising money in the foreseeable future.

One idea that failed to make it out of the Legislature this year is a regional sales tax on gasoline to fund area transportation projects.

Consumers pay gasoline taxes, but a sales tax is not imposed on motor fuels. Some drivers may find this option preferable to toll roads, although officials say an array of funding measures will be needed.

The news isn't pleasant, but daily traffic jams aren't good for economic development or the city's quality of life.