San Marcos Area Chamber Of Commerce Hosts 2019 Transportation Summit

By, Terra Rivers, Managing Editor

On Friday, January 25, the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2019 Transportation Summit at the San Marcos Convention Center.

The event opened with a few words from Chamber President Jason Mock before he introduced this year’s featured speaker, Jim Wimberly of Texas Aviation Partners. Texas Aviation Partners is the company that manages the San Marcos Regional Airport on behalf of the City of San Marcos.

Wimberly gave a presentation about the airport’s features, which include a Federal Aviation Administration air control tower, fourteen businesses that provide services, such as but no limited to, car rental and fueling, three runways and four hundred acres available of future development.

Wimberley said the airport averages about 178 takeoffs and landings per day in traffic and is the only airport in Texas with the FAA designation as a reliever airport for two international airports.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, reliever airports are airports designated by the FAA to relieve congestion at Commercial Service Airports and to provide improved general aviation access to the overall community.

When air traffic becomes “congested” at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the San Antonio International Airport, planes are diverted to the San Marcos Regional Airport.

In October 2018, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division announced the results of an Economic Impact Study, which reported the San Marcos Regional Airport had increased its contribution to local economy dramatically over the last eight years.

According to a comparison between a similar study from 2010 and 2018’s, San Marcos Regional Airport’s total economic output has increased from $44.9 million to $82.1 million – an 82 percent increase. The upward trend is echoed in the airport’s revenues which have increased from $293,000 in FY 2011 to $604,000 in FY 2018 – a 106 percent increase.

Wimberley said several projects were in the works at the airport including the expansion of Berry Aviation, the updating of the airport master plan, the “Go Wheels Up! Texas” Concert event to be held in May and a $10 million rehabilitation of the airport’s longest taxiway.

Following Wimberley’s update, attendees heard from a three-person panel; panelists discussed the transportation issues the region faces and what improvements have been made or could be made as the area’s population grows.

Panelists included TxDOT Austin District Engineer Terry McCoy, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority External Affairs Director Dee Anne Heath and San Marcos Director of Engineering Laurie Moyer.

Mock mediated the discussion and asked questions about congestion, project costs, interagency cooperation, community involvement and the different factors of transportation.

McCoy said keeping up with the population when it comes to transportation improvements is a challenge, but TxDOT works with partners, such as cities, counties and other organizations to deliver projects reliably and efficiently as well as maintain and operate the system the region or state has already.

“As Terry said, you really have to have all the tools in the toolbox,” Heath said. “What we try to do at CTRMA is try to educate everybody about all of those tools and why they’re important and make sure that nobody takes them away from us because we can’t solve these issues without partnering…”

Moyer discussed the work the City of San Marcos has partnered with TxDOT and the processes involved to complete those projects. “I think we all recognize we can’t build roads fast enough for the number of people moving in,” Moyer said.

According to Moyer,he process with agencies like TxDOT was a good but long process, and the change happening in the community and the population doesn’t stop or slow down while that process is going on.

When asked about the future, Heath said no one knows exactly what the future will look like, and, “I think technology, innovation is critical.” Heath went on to say when it comes to transportation, experts have to look at things in a non-traditional way.

Moyer said since people may not know what the future of transportation will look at, it made planning more important than ever. Moyer also noted the important of regularly updating those plans to accommodate new innovative advances and changes in the area. Mock asked McCoy when he thought the improvements to I-35 would be completed.

While McCoy jokingly said, “It’ll never be finished,” he continued that the state would eventually run out of room to expand I-35 to accommodate the growth of those using it and would have to look at transportation alternatives.   

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