778 residents of Atascosa County joined Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) for a town hall meeting conducted by telephone last Wednesday, June 20. Cuellar used the telephone town hall to conduct a question and answer session with people living in the Atascosa area about issues facing their community, particularly matters related to transportation and roads. Mario Medina, San Antonio District Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), also participated in the telephone town hall and answered questions from Atascosa area residents about TxDOT's role in addressing Atascosa's transportation needs.
For several years, Cuellar has used telephone town halls to connect with constituents while he is in Washington, D.C. during weeks that Congress is in session, but this telephone town hall meeting was the first one that Cuellar has held that focused on only one county.
"This telephone town hall meeting was designed to focus on the specific needs of residents of Atascosa County," Congressman Cuellar said. "In part because of developments at Eagle Ford Shale, Atascosa has a unique set of transportation issues, and I wanted to be able to hear from residents in the area in their own voice about how I can use federal resources to help make sure their transportation needs are met."
The question and answer session, which lasted over half an hour, opened with a veteran explaining that he has to travel for medical appointments and asking whether public transportation services could be expanded to assist with his journey. Other callers expressed their wishes for infrastructure improvements like building a shoulder on FM 140 in Christine and Charlotte and building a bypass linking Jourdanton and Pleasanton to Interstate 37 in response to the Eagle Ford Shale traffic boom.
When one caller expressed his wish for the addition of another off-ramp on Interstate 35 to facilitate easier access to Lytle, Medina explained that while an additional ramp in that area might be a good idea, TxDOT is constrained in its ability to make improvements like that by the availability of funds.
Cuellar then explained the role he plays in helping to secure federal funds to support the improvement of roads and transportation infrastructure for areas traveled by his constituents. Many of these improvements are paid for by the gas tax motorists pay at the pumps with the understanding that revenues will go toward improving the roads they drive on.
Much of the call was focused on constituents' concerns about specific roads that have seen increased traffic due to energy development operations in the Eagle Ford Shale footprint. FM 16 and FM 140 were two of the roads that constituents cited as examples of roads that are deteriorating from the increased capacity of oil and gas drilling equipment. Cuellar is working with his colleagues both in the U.S. House of Representatives and at TxDOT to drive the ongoing improvements to the area's roads and respond to the effects of Eagle Ford Shale development.
"I am very grateful to Mario Medina for joining me for this telephone town hall meeting and sharing his expertise on local transportation issues with people living in the Atascosa area," said Cuellar. "Mario works tirelessly at the state level to help the people of Atascosa County. It's important that my colleagues and I continue to work at the federal level to make sure that Mario and others at TxDOT have the resources and tools they need to respond to Atascosa's transportation needs and maintain our roads and highways to keep Texans and goods moving."