The Chairman of the Via Metro Transit Board of Trustees may be heading out the door, but Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is still pushing that $280 million streetcar project for downtown, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"Via's modern streetcar will further evolve our downtown area," Wolff said in his State of the County speech today. "The final route has been announced and now the board will make the decision on priority route that is funded by the state, city, and VIA. They will stay within their budget."
Wolff didn’t say how that will happen. The Via Board has approved a $280 million plan, but only has $210 million in the bank to pay for it.
Transportation was high on Wolff's list of concerns for his annual address. He discussed plans to build so called 'diamond lanes' or managed lanes which can be used only by carpools on US 281, and said a recently approved $10 increase in the county car registration fee will go to projects including upgrades on Loop 1604, US 281, and Highway 90.
Wolff also hit what has become a pet project of the County Judge, enhancing live music and competing with Austin for performance and promotion of independent bands.
"There is still a major piece lacking in attracting the best and the brightest," Wolff said of his goal to turn downtown into a residential center for 'the creative class.' "That is the lack of a first class music scene."
He said The Aztec Theater downtown would be a good venue for independent bands, as well as the Coliseum and the Mission Park Pavilions, which could be used as an outdoor music venue.
Wolff warned that the local aerospace industry, for so long an economic driver in this area, is stagnating as a result of military budget cuts and the sequestration. He says the region's rate of job growth has slowed to 1.6% per year, slowest of the four big metro areas in the state.
He cited recent layoffs at Port San Antonio and at Boeing's huge facility at Port San Antonio.
"We must step up our lobbying efforts with Congress and the Pentagon," Wolff said. "This has been a major role of the Chamber in the past, and once again you will have to lead the effort."