Monday, March 14, 2016

Today is the deadline for comments to TxDOT SH 46 Project in Comal County

Trey Wilson San Antonio Texas Real Estate Attorney, Trey Wilson Real Estate Lawyer in San Antonio wrote:

Today, March 14, 2016, is the deadline for the public and stakeholders to submit written comments to the Texas Department of Transportation's preliminary plans for "improving" the 7-mile stretch of SH 46 from Bulverde Road to FM 3159 (Smithson Valley Road) in southern Comal County.  The preliminary plans follow an initial study performed by TxDOT and its consultants.

The greater SH 46/US Hwy. 281 vicinity is being considered  for an ambitious transportation Project that may include expansion of SH 46 from two to six lanes in the area of the City of Bulverde and Smithson Valley High School. Also contemplated is construction of sidewalks and bicycle accommodations along the Project area and the insertion of raised concrete medians . These medians would largely prevent left hand turns on the stretch of SH 46, except at major intersections, which would  be controlled by traffic lights.

Expansion of the highway Right-of-Way will necessarily include acquisition of private property through condemnation/eminent domain, and possibly re-alignment of roadways intersecting with SH 46 in the Project area.

TxDOT has done a good job of getting the word out, and has set-up a dedicated website and an email list for interested parties to receive Project information, news and updates. 

A public meeting was held on March 3, 2016, and TxDOT presentation materials from that meeting may be viewed here.  

Following the public meeting, TxDOT called for public comment to its plans -- all of which are still preliminary.  Those comments may be submitted by email to: or by mail to:

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)                    

SH 46 Improvement Project                          
P.O. Box 5459                                                               
Austin, Texas 78763                   
I submitted a lengthy comment last week on behalf of a client who owns a relatively large property in the Project area. The following are our "General Comments" to the Project:

(i)     the Project budget has been a moving target. Cost estimates from as low as $40M (which presently appears as the combined total of projects 0121507027 and 021401044 on the TxDOT “Project Tracker” website) to $66M (which was discussed when we met in February 2016) to $77M (which was identified at the March 2016 public meeting as an “Early Construction estimate”) have all been publicized by TxDOT. The public, the legislators responsible for balancing the State budget and TxDOT’s financial partners in the Project all deserve transparency in representations concerning the true cost of the Project;

(ii)     the Project’s geographic boundaries have also been somewhat elusive. Initial reports placed the western reach of the Project at Spring Branch Rd. Currently-published information (including the TxDOT project tracker website) extends that boundary to Bulverde Rd., while schematics presented for public view show plans for even further extension west on SH 46 to a point of “tapering” that almost reaches Anhalt Rd. Transparency and dissemination of accurate information about the Project’s boundaries are critical for meaningful public input and understanding of the Project;

(iii)     the 6 lane configuration is vastly more expensive than the original publicized plan for expansion to 4 lanes, and requires acquisition of significantly more Right-of-Way (“ROW”) through condemnation of private property. In many areas (including the area of the Farm) existing TxDOT-owned ROW would be sufficient to expand SH 46 to 4 lanes, so the cost of acquiring additional ROW could be avoided entirely. While traffic counts on SH 46 in the areas immediately adjacent to or east of US 281 may justify 6 lanes, a 4 lane configuration is more than ample for areas that are several miles from that intersection (including the area of the Farm);

(iv)   the proposed, widespread use of medians in the Project imposes serious accessibility challenges for many properties situated along SH 46. Requiring U-turns by large vehicles and preventing left-hand turns into businesses and residences will increase traffic dangers, negatively impact businesses that are currently accessible to both east and west-bound traffic, and promote congestion at U-turn points.  The portions of US 281 in far north Bexar County (between Evans Rd. and Marshall Rd.) are a debacle, and TxDOT should not duplicate those traffic circulation nightmares on SH 46;

(v)      as an alternative/complement to the Project, TxDOT and its partners should consider near-term development/expansion of other access corridors to US 281 and/or Bexar County from southern Comal County west of US 281. A fundamental flaw in the Project’s global objective is failure to include any accommodation for diverting traffic away from SH46 west of US 281 or the 46/281 intersection.  Rather, the Project would promote traffic congestion on SH46 by ignoring other practical, necessary and less-costly roadway expansions which would promote traffic-flow away from the already-congested intersection.  For example, Blanco Rd. south of SH46 has seen tremendous development of residential subdivisions. Yet, despite this rapid growth, and Blanco’s existing length to a terminus point located just north of downtown San Antonio, no viable plan presently exists for expanding Blanco Rd. north of Camp Bullis, or creating an east-west route from Blanco to US 281 between Borgfeld Rd. (to the south) and SH 46. Similarly, and as acknowledged in the City of Bulverde Transportation Master Plan, Bulverde Rd. south of SH46 (near the City of Bulverde) is under-burdened and ripe for expansion – especially as the City and its Chamber of Commerce actively promote increased development and commerce. At a minimum, present consideration should be given to expanding Blanco Rd. and Bulverde Rd. as viable thoroughfares, and investigation of connecting Bulverde Rd. with Spring Branch Rd. as a single north-south corridor is warranted;

(vi)  incorporation of bicycle lanes and pedestrian paths into the Project are superfluous. Inclusion of these features contemplates (and would promote) modes of travel that are unsafe and out of place on a state highway whose traffic volume is predicted to increase manifold in the coming decades;

(vii)    the Project’s stated objective of improving sight distances by “flattening” curves in the existing configuration of SH46 are disparately applied in publicized schematics. While TxDOT literature promotes the benefits of acquiring additional ROW to improve sight distance, numerous existing, sharp curves do not appear slated for expansion/improvement. If improved sight distance is a valid objective, it should be applied with equal impact along all areas of SH 46 whose existing terrain or curves endanger motorists;

(viii)   the SH 46 corridor encompasses numerous sensitive environmental features, including waterways (streams, creeks and tributaries), century oaks, limestone outcrop and other geological features, Hill Country terrain and groundwater recharge areas. TxDOT should proceed with extreme concern for preserving the environmental integrity of the Project area, and the numerous wildlife species that inhabit it;

(ix)     the area of the SH 46 corridor is of significant historical and archeological value to the State of Texas, and numerous artifacts from Native Americans and German settlors abound in the Project area.  Arrowheads and other evidence of Native American life are also frequently found in the Project area; and

(x)      the Project area, including SH 46, itself, is prone to serious flooding. The area has experienced significant flood events within the past year, and on numerous prior occasions. The addition of expanded impervious cover will promote storm water runoff, and present increased drainage problems in an area that already suffers from a lack of flood mitigation. While the Project plans call for concrete drainage features near the intersection of US 281 and SH 46, there appears to be no accommodation for the additional storm water that will affect the eastern and western extremities of the Project area.

If you live or work near the Project area, please participate in the public comment period, and let TxDOT know your thoughts. We are fortunate to live in a nation and State where public input can be expressed and will be heard!

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