San Antonio residents not pleased with nearly $3 million in federal funding for an eastside study

Residents say they want real action to be taken to help the surrounding community, not another study.

SAN ANTONIO — Approximately $3 million in federal funds will be put toward a study aimed at helping to bridge downtown San Antonio with the eastside.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program, which seeks to help connect underserved and low-income communities and mitigate adverse environmental impacts, according to a press release from U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28).

Cuellar also told KENS 5 this study is the first step in bridging the disconnect I-37 has created between the eastside and downtown, but residents have mixed feelings on the matter.

“So you use our numbers…but you don’t help the people,” community activist and business owner, Nneka Cleaver, said.

Cleaver said so many studies have been done over and over on the eastside, always with the same goal: to help the community. But Cleaver said nothing ever comes of them and the community continues to suffer.

Others like Jose Gallegos Jr., who volunteers on the eastside, hope the study will bring change.

“Certainly $3 million is gonna go a long way towards bridging that gap of poverty,” Gallegos said.

That’s the goal for Congressman Cuellar. He said this study is needed in order to provide the necessary information to the U.S. Department of Transportation so they can evaluate what funding needs to go where to help the eastside community.

“Then we tap the dollars that we specifically appropriated so we can look for paths or whatever the study comes up with. And I certainly encourage the community to get involved,” Cuellar said.

The grant program was created by the Inflation Reduction Act, which Cuellar helped pass in 2022.

According to the press release from Cuellar, the federal grant will fund a conceptual design and planning study to tackle physical barriers and social impacts caused by Interstate 37. 

The highway currently separates the eastside from critical community hubs, educational institutions, employment opportunities, and essential services. 

The eastside is designated as a ‘promise zone,’ with various initiatives underway to advance community development and services.

When Congressman Cuellar announced the federal funding earlier this month, he provided this statement in the press release:

“For too long, neighborhoods in San Antonio’s historic eastside have faced challenges due to being separated from Downtown San Antonio by Interstate 37,” said Dr. Cuellar, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “I’m extremely pleased the City of San Antonio has received this federal grant to better connect the approximately 10,600 eastside residents to jobs, healthcare facilities, and recreational opportunities in the city center. This study will be the first step to improving walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access for the eastside community and the broader San Antonio region.”

Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez for district 2 of San Antonio also provided a statement to KENS 5 regarding this grant:

“We are excited for this first allotment of funding that will allow us to engage the community on ways we may connect the eastside to downtown. This will ensure we are competitive for future funding opportunities that will allow us to invest millions of dollars to improve this vital area.”

It will be up to the city as to when this study will end. KENS 5 has reached out to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and has yet to hear back.

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