Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Kendall County, Texas, Wants a Say in Regional Transit Planning

Many of the county’s residents commute into San Antonio for work and are directly impacted by the road and highway conditions. County commissioners are considering expanding the Metro planning board by one seat.

There was a time when San Antonio's traffic issues weren't a big concern in Kendall County, Texas.

But the metro area's swift growth has changed all that. Kendall County residents — many of whom commute into San Antonio for work — are very much affected by the state of the region's roads and highways

That's why county leaders are looking for ways to have a bigger voice in planning the region's transportation future.

The Kendall County Commissioner's Court says it is considering taking an expanded role on the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization — commonly known as AAMPO — which is the agency responsible for transportation planning for the entire region.

The section of Kendall County that includes Boerne already has a seat on the AAMPO board, but the regional agency is offering a second seat that would encompass all of Kendall County.

For officials and residents in Kendall County, where changes brought by rapid population growth often stir criticism, the proposed move has become a source of debate. Would expanding the county's voice on regional transit issues help steer growth in a more palatable way for residents — or might it encourage more highways to be built?

Kendall County Judge Shane Stolarczyk said the court is "seriously entertaining" taking the additional seat at AAMPO's table.

The commissioners court "is taking a proactive approach to issues, not sitting back and waiting till we're in the middle of it," Stolarczyk said. "And one of those things is trying to make sure that we have a seat when it comes time to talk... about these bigger roadway roadways or thoroughfares coming through our county."

If Kendall County officials do decide to move forward with another AAMPO seat, it won't happen immediately, as the process could take six to 12 months to complete.

Big Impact For 'the Average Citizen'

While AAMPO might seem like another boring government acronym, the organization plays an important role in deciding which highway projects become reality in the area, experts say.

AAMPO is a metropolitan planning organization, which were created by the federal government "to provide a comprehensive, coordinated and continuous transportation planning process" for major U.S. metro areas, according to the agency's website. All urban areas with a population of more than 50,000 people are required to have one.

AAMPO exists to streamline the transportation planning process and help direct state and federal funding, said Kevin Wolff, a former San Antonio City Council member and a former Bexar County commissioner who is on AAMPO's transportation policy board.

Wolff described the agency as "advisory organizations" telling the Texas Department of Transportation which projects locals prefer to be funded.

"The average citizen doesn't have a clue what the MPO does," Wolff said. "I can tell you, the effect that it has on the average citizen is huge."

San Antonio and Bexar County have had one of these agencies for decades. Following the 2010 Census, the existing agency was renamed as AAMPO and expanded to include all of Comal and Guadalupe counties, along with the section of Kendall County that includes Boerne.

Talks are in the early stages, but the majority of the Kendall County Commissioners Court members said they are leaning toward the expanded role on the regional body. They said doing so could help bring in federal dollars that the county couldn't land on its own.

As much as some of them want Kendall County to keep its Hill Country character, growth is inevitable and new infrastructure must be built, they said.

Kendall County grew from 33,410 residents in 2010 to almost 49,000 in 2022, according to Census Bureau estimates. Boerne, the county's largest city, doubled in size in the same time period, jumping from 10,471 to almost 21,000.

That growth has strained the county's resources and its infrastructure, officials say.

AAMPO has "so many resources and a plethora of knowledge on transportation, that they can help direct Kendall County... on how to get what it is that they're wanting to achieve and (fund it)," Kendall County Commissioner Christina Bergmann told Express-News.

'AAMPO Scares Me'

Despite those potential benefits, there are concerns among some residents about a possible downside: That AAMPO — which has long been heavily focused on Bexar County — might use its influence to coerce Kendall County into projects that would negatively affect the county's character.

County resident Denise Dever told commissioners she realizes Kendall County likely needs to join AAMPO to have a seat at the policy-making table, but urged them to meet with residents before making a final decision.

"We all knew this day was going to come," Dever said during the court's Oct. 10 meeting. "We need every position available to us. You are going to be bringing the voices of all of the county people who have fought for almost 20 years to maintain rural identity here."

Lance Kyle, another county resident, also warned the court of the potential downside of joining AAMPO.

"AAMPO scares me a little bit," Kyle said. "Kind of like a blunt instrument organization. Let's get these things built and not follow up on the details of the people who live there."

Wolff said he thinks AAMPO has a track record of working in harmony with the metro area's smaller counties.

"There was a very large fear on behalf of those rural counties about getting squashed by the 800-pound gorilla of Bexar County and San Antonio," Wolff said. "We haven't done that. We worked well together."

Comal County Commissioner Kevin Webb, who is also on AAMPO's transportation policy board, echoed that opinion. Webb said he was also skeptical of AAMPO's intentions for Comal County, but said he's seen the value of being part of the planning process. He said AAMPO won't force any unwanted projects on Kendall County.

"I think that all of us — even if we're not that excited about the changes that are going on —understand that if we don't get out and try to get out in front of it and lead with some vision, (life) becomes much, much more difficult," Webb said.

Bergmann, the Kendall County commissioner, said that with nearby Guadalupe and Comal counties dealing with many of the same issues, looking for shared solutions makes sense.

"Each of us, it seemed like, had one or two of the exact same problems in our area," Bergmann said. "So instead of reinventing the wheel, let's all work together to figure out how these things can maybe be resolved."

If Kendall County does move ahead with an expanded role in AAMPO, it will keep its local interests front and center, said Stolarczyk, the county judge.

"We want to be able to work with ( Bexar County)," Stolarczyk told the Express-News. "I'm just expressing that if they have an agenda and think we're just going to roll over and let them roll through our county, they got another thing coming"

(c)2023 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

TNS delivers daily news service and syndicated premium content to more than 2,000 media and digital information publishers.
From Our Partners