Mike Heiligenstein is the Executive Director for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. A reporter for the San Antonio Business Journal interviewed him regarding issues in central Texas transportation.
He led off asking asking about State Highway 130 (SH 130). Although it was supposed to relieve the traffic burden on Interstate 35, it doesn’t do that. Its traffic is so low that Moody’s has twice downgraded its credit rating.
Heiligenstein says the traffic on Interstatee 35 is nearly unsolvable for the next 20 years because it’s made up mostly of local traffic, not through traffic. In many places there is no way to add lanes or the capacity to hold more vehicles. The surrounding cities and neighborhoods are reluctant to allow for expansion because it would cut into their land area and disrupt property owners near the highway.
Between San Antonio and Austin the traffic is 85% local. Therefore, there’s no place to redirect that traffic to. He says they somehow have to add capacity, change user behaviors and become multi-modal.
The reporter pointed out that toll roads have not been successful for years because high fuel costs and a weak economy have cut into the amount of traffic they carry, so income from tolls is down.
Heiligenstein said that toll roads were one of the solutions to meeting the transportation needs of the state. User revenue fully funded the last extension of 183A in Austin. They did not use any tax dollars for that project.
According to him, the bonds his authority issues are highly popular. Investors carry out their due diligence, and they like his authority’s bonds. The investment community oversubscribed for their last offering of $300 million by ten times. They could have issued $3 billion. They received a nice rate of interest, and an increase in their credit rating.
He agrees that part of this popularity comes from the prospect of future growth in San Antonio and Austin. That is a long term trend that is not going away. His authority needs to plan to provide the transportation infrastructure for that growth and development.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was created in 2002 to design and carry out a modern transportation network for Central Texas. The Mobile Authority is a separate government entity.
Mike Heiligenstein has served as an elected representative serving Central Texas infrastructure for over 23 years in Williamson County. He has served on the Clean Air Force of Texas, the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council and many other regional infrastructure organizations.