SAN ANTONIO – A battle is still brewing over Hays Street Bridge, months after the city of San Antonio agreed to sell the land to a brewery.
Now, News 4 is learning the federal government may want millions of dollars back that have already been spent on bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
Several years ago, neighbors on the east side started a campaign to save the bridge and raised enough money to qualify for a $2.9 million dollar federal grant.
That’s the money now caught in the crossfire.
In the summer of 2010, the city of San Antonio held a ribbon-cutting for the new-and-improved Hays Street Bridge, calling it a gateway connecting the east side and downtown for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The improvements were paid for mostly by federal money.
"We get a very small portion of overall spending yet there's over a quarter of a million bicycle riders in the city,” John Yoggerst with the Bicycle Mobility Advisory Committee says.
That committee is part of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group that helps coordinate how tax dollars are spent to improve transportation in our area.
"We can't afford to give up what we've got,” Yoggerst says.
But sources tell News 4 the federal government wants that tax money back, all because the Alamo Brewery plans to put tables and chairs for customers on the bridge.
"The problem is the tables and chairs take up most of the lane – the main thoroughfare on the bridge – so bicycles can't go both directions and they certainly can't share it with pedestrians,” Yoggerst says. “There isn't enough room to accommodate everything."
TxDOT confirms the Federal Highway Administration sent a letter to the city saying it cannot back a project that benefits a private development and changes the way millions of dollars were spent to fix up the bridge.
Yoggerst and other sources say the federal government has told the city to give the money back.
"I think they've misused funds,” he says. "It actually defeats the purpose of trying to get money and having the city decide they have a better idea how to use that money, even though they said they'd do this with it."
The city and TxDOT both tell News 4 they are working together to figure out the next step.
The city says it’s given the federal government the current plans for the bridge – one that includes tables – and is working to find a solution.