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‘Complete Street’ prioritizes pedestrians over cars — at unknown cost

By   /   August 30, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo by Kenric Ward

PIE IN THE SKY?: Consultant Robert Yakas lays out a “Complete Streets” vision that crimps vehicle traffic and clears more space for pedestrians.

 

A $49,880 study calls for constricted car lanes, wider sidewalks and a dedicated bike path as part of a “Complete Streets” makeover of one of San Antonio’s major thoroughfares.

How much it all might cost is anyone’s guess.

Proponents of the plan say the Fredericksburg Road corridor, which connects downtown with UT-San Antonio and the sprawling Medical Center complex, is long overdue for an upgrade.

Residents complain that insufficient lighting, poor drainage and gaps in sidewalks make the street unsafe.

“Everyone acknowledges we need to change,” said Robert Yakas, the Portland, Oregon-based consultant hired by the city.

Photo by Kenric Ward

NO CROWD: A bus rapid transit (BRT) station waits for passengers on Fredericksburg Road. One city plan proposes a light rail line in its place.

Yakas’ streetscape design proposes 13-foot-wide sidewalks, narrower 11-foot traffic lanes and installation of a six-foot bike path. In some segments, vehicle lanes are halved from four to two.

Yakas’ group received a $49,880 contract from San Antonio to produce the plan. Residents along the route contributed ideas to the final product.

“We should be making streets for people, instead of cars,” one participant declared.

The plan, which does not propose light rail, differs from the city’s “Multimodal Transportation Plan,” which lists rail as an option for the corridor.

Neither Yakas nor the city offered cost estimates on Fredericksburg Road. Arthur Reinhardt, assistant director of the city’s Transportation & Capital Improvements Department, said the work is part of a “five-year action plan” priced at $305 million.

“Within the five-year action plan are some operational improvements such as pavement marking modifications or changes to some of the intersection geometrics,” Reinhardt told Watchdog.org in an email.

“One of the next steps is to review multimodal opportunities to specific corridors by conducting a detailed study. This has not been completed for Fredericksburg Road, therefore, we do not have an estimated cost.”

Jeff Judson, a San Antonio businessman and government critic, said artists’ renderings, replete with non-indigenous palm trees, fly in the face of fiscal reality, which includes ever-rising levels of municipal debt.

“They can’t afford adequate police or road repair,” he said of the city and its $2.5 billion general fund budget.

Yakas’ “Complete Street” envisions higher-density, mixed-use development along a gentrified, artsy Fredericksburg Road.

Bridgett White, interim director of planning, said, “Pro formas show the financial feasibility if a private developer wanted to redevelop properties at three sites that were identified as opportunity redevelopment sites.”

Kenric Ward reports for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Kenricward

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Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.