Puro Politics is a weekly podcast hosted by columnist Gilbert Garcia, covering the drama and nuance of local government issues. Produced by Joy-Marie Scott.
Over the past several months, as Henry Cisneros has delivered presentations to various community groups about San Antonio’s transportation future, one question has consistently popped up: How are we going to connect San Antonio to Austin?
Cisneros, the former San Antonio mayor and federal housing secretary, currently serves as tri-chair for ConnectSA, a nonprofit devoted to developing a multimodal mobility plan to lead this city through the next two decades of projected explosive population growth. As a result of that recurring question, Cisneros is putting together a strategy for a San Antonio-Austin connection.
“We’re doing the behind-the-scenes work on it now,” Cisneros said, during an interview on this week’s edition of the Express-News’ Puro Politics podcast.
The plan would not involve a rail line.
“Frankly, I’ve worked for 20 years trying to do rail between Austin and San Antonio,” he said. “It’s not going to happen on the existing rail, because the existing rail is a mix of freight and passengers, which is a dangerous mix, and the freight lines are not ready to relinquish their rights to use it unimpeded.”
On ExpressNews.com: ConnectSA offers all-you-can ride mobility buffet
Cisneros added: “I think what we could do is use a small amount of money … and put together, at the beginning a bus, later a bus rapid-transit vehicle, that leaves San Antonio at a minimum every hour, downtown, and goes to downtown Austin and then returns.
“We have conversations underway now with Austin Capital Metro as to whether they would want to participate in that. But even if they say no, we can solicit their cooperation in letting us bring passengers back (to San Antonio).”
ConnectSA is attempting to create a holistic approach to mobility — featuring advanced rapid transit vehicles with rubber tires operating on dedicated lanes, 200 miles of additional sidewalks, 40 miles of protected pathways for bicycles and scooters, enhanced VIA bus service and the creation of new lanes for major interchanges — at a cost that falls within the realm of fiscal possibility.
While the plan will require an additional $1.3 billion in funding for its first (2019-25) phase, Cisneros has outlined several possible funding sources, such as bumping up the transportation share of the next city and county bond programs and transferring Edward Aquifer protection sales tax revenue to ConnectSA.
He expects a city vote on a package of transportation measures in November 2020.
Hear these and other topics discussed on this week’s episode of the Puro Politics podcast.
Gilbert Garcia is a columnist covering the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @gilgamesh470