Officials concerned about the economic damage that has been caused to the city's East Side following the closure of New Braunfels Avenue through Ft. Sam Houston following 9-11, East Side and City leaders have proposed a bold solution--a tunnel under the Army post, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
East Side buisnessman Lou Miller, who is a member of the Regional Mobility Authority, the local transportation planning body, says a tunnel which would allow north-south traffic on New Braunfels to continue by taking the traffic under Ft. Sam Houston, would cost an estimated $120 million, but he says it is an idea worth pursuing.
"What we're going to do is look at divvying the cost up among several different agencies," Miller said. "We're going to look at divvying it up among a future bond issue, among TxDOT.
New Braunfels Ave was a flourishing commercial strip in the nineties, and the City spent millions encouraging small businesses to open along the road to boost the local economy. But following the 9-11 attacks, new security initiatives clamped down on what were called 'Open Bases,' where civilian traffic was allowed on military property. That required the Army to close New Braunfels Ave and erect heavy metal gates and concrete security barriers on the north and south entrances to the post to carefully check non military traffic.
The result, Miller and others say, has been the destruction of New Braunfels as a commercial corridor, with dozens of businesses closing, adding to the economic malaise of the region and contributing to the surge in violent crime and gang activity.
Miller says the Army is willing to work with local officials on a plan that works.
"We are going to be in contact with the Department of Defense, to get them to approve the fact that we need to raise $120 million to do a tunnel through Ft. Sam Houston."
New Braunfels Ave is still intact through the post, which means that any tunnel construction would not endanger any buildings, nor would creation of an underground tunnel create security problems in the event of a 'truck bomb' being detonated inside the tunnel.
Miller points out that the length of New Braunfels between the north and south gates of Ft. Sam Houston is only a quarter mile, making a tunnel feasable.
New Braunfels is one of the longest north-south streets in the city, and Miller points out that it is the only direct link from the Airport to the rapidly growing Brooks City Base sector.He says the East Side Alliance will also work with the military on possible temporary measures to allow civilian traffic through Ft. Sam Houston on New Braunfels Ave, including continuation of the concrete barriers all along the length of the road through the Post.