Monday, August 5

Project roundup (because ... well ... it's all about being in the know!)

First of all, the goal when this blog was launched was to publish between three and five meaningful posts each week to let folks know what's going on with specific construction projects and construction-related road closures.

The problem with all that is when the poster is out-of-town, no posts get published. So ... in lieu of the last two weeks' worth of posts, here's a round-up of everything that's been happening on our major highway road projects in the San Antonio district. I'll start with the rural projects and work cityward (is that a word, even? If not, it is now...).

Kerr County - Hwy 39 (Ingram)

During a recent meeting of the minds between Ingram city officials and TxDOT staff, plans to work heavily on the Hwy 39 bridge over Johnson Creek were outlined.

According the the most recent construction schedule, the expansion of the bridge - it's being widened to accommodate the widened road, which will include sidewalks and bike lanes along with a center left-turn lane - should be finished early this fall. Until the work is finished, no pedestrian traffic should be permitted on the bridge. It's simply unsafe with the work zone barricaded off and only enough space on the bridge for the two active lanes of traffic. Because of the proximity to Ingram Tom Moore High School, this may present an issue for some of the local youth. We are working with school district officials to develop a solution for the few weeks of overlap we'll have with the upcoming school year.

Beyond the work on the Johnson Creek Bridge, work has begun and reached about the quarter-way-there mark on the new bridge over the Guadalupe River at Cade Loop Road. The column shafts sticking out of the water are at their final heights, though we still need to build column caps (which act as shelves for support beams) and build the deck itself. All that will come once the work on Johnson Creek Bridge is finished.

Meanwhile, we've begun building the detour - which will really act as a temporary road path side-by-side with the current roadway - which will be in use by late August so road crews can install drain structures along the west end of the project. Businesses in the middle of the project should also expect more action in front of their locations over the next week or two.

Kendall County - Main Street

With the signal upgrades nearing completion, the work on the Cibolo Creek Bridge is also headed quickly toward its finish line. Most of the overnight closures - used to allow bridge crews to safely hang beams and perform other major structure work - are done, but a few remain. Those closures, as always, will be announced as they arrive.

Comal County - US 281 through Spring Branch

Two of the final three property parcels have been acquired by TxDOT to continue construction, and we'll be able to work on those properties by October (there's a 90-day grace period so anything the former landowner wanted to keep can be salvaged). The final piece of land to acquire is the land where the Spring Branch Post Office is located. I don't have any updates on that.

It's really common for TxDOT to begin a project having acquired all but a few final pieces of land through right-of-way acquisition. It allows us to expedite projects and provide our safe, reliable solutions to safety or congestion issues to Texas drivers all that much faster.

Otherwise, work on the project is steaming along. Most of the future south-bound lanes between the Blanco County line and FM 311 are formed and built, waiting concrete and cement. We've still got a few gaps due to utility conflicts, but otherwise we're all in place up that way. Further south, we've got land being cleared along Coyote Ridge. Nothing being worked on (for now) really impacts daily traffic.

There is a concern about trucks entering and exiting the roadway, however. Unfortunately, there's not a lot we can do beyond telling truck drivers to be more cogniscent of the traffic flow. We've posted signs reading "TRUCKS ENTERING ROADWAY" signs in an effort to make drivers more aware this is an issue, but it (sadly) won't be going away any time soon. Because of the unpredictable and intermittent frequency of this, we simply cannot have flaggers or other traffic control out there to get these trucks in and out of the roadway. For now, we're reminding drivers to be good neighbors.

Comal County - FM 306

With efforts to add strategically located turning and passing lanes in the Canyon Lake area nearing an end - most of the pavement was in place by the end of last week, and job bosses are looking for a dry spell to allow lanes to be painted successfully - most of the concern on FM 306 has turned to the segment near Gruene.

In tha last few weeks folks have seen the bridge support structures go up for the future west-bound lanes near Hunter Road, and some of the similar work is happening near Goodwin Lane. As we begin putting caps - those shelves that top the columns and hold up the beams on bridges - on the columns at Hunter, look for the columns to start going up near Goodwin. We've already made some good headway on the retaining walls that will hold the approach to the overpass at Goodwin.

That bridge work is and will be the most visible work we do over the next several weeks. Yes, we're busy putting inlet drains in and working on a few other underground things ... and we've got some of the portions of roadway to be widened already graded out and the base layers of asphalt is down ... but we've still got a long way to go. Perhaps the most significant change for folks driving this corridor is the upgraded traffic signals. We've changed the signal devices from the old-fashioned timers to a new VIVDS Camera system. Basically, we've made the signals smart, and that should improve the traffic flow a bit while we're still in construction.

Comal County - Seguin Avenue

The magic day to mark on the calendar on this project is September 9. On that morning Seguin Avenue will be closed - completely and totally - at the UPRR underpass near I-35. The closure will last six months. Traffic will be detoured onto Nacogdoches Street, Comal Avenue and Hampe Street to get to their respective destinations.

Again, that's September 9. For six months.

Between now and then, you'll see more of the same stuff you've seen all summer. Work continues - and is nearing completion - on the new retaining wall. Drill shafts are being worked on to support the temporary "shoo-fly" detour. None of the work happening now will impact traffic until the summer is over. But, once September 9 hits, well ... hopefully you're getting the idea!

Comal County - Walnut Avenue

A clear distinction needs to be made here. The project at the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Landa Street, extending along Walnut Avenue south/east of that intersection, is being overseen by the city of New Braunfels. The TxDOT project on Walnut Avenue (which will expand the street and add sidewalks and bike lanes) is set to begin next year after utilities are appropriately adjusted. These adjustments are slated for later this year and early 2013.

Comal County - FM 2252 and FM 3009

After a three-week haiatus from the project - the contractor turned the intersection back over to TxDOT while we tested the new signal cabinets and got things calibrated appropriately - the contractor is back on the job. THey are scheduled to have the new signals in place by 8 August and should have the project buttoned up by the middle of the month.

Keep in mind most remaining work will be done at night, so you might not see the crews at work. We're trying to stay out of the way!

Comal/Guadalupe/Bexar County - I-35 Selma

This project ... wow. Where do I begin? Let's start north and work down from there.

The turnarounds at FM 3009 have been put at a lower priority on the list of tasks on this project, but should still be hammered out by the first part of September. That's the aim, for now. Crews were reallocated to the ramps and highway expansion between FM 1518 and Schertz Parkway.

About two weeks ago we opened the north-bound exit ramp to Schertz Parkway. We can't get the entrance ramp from FM 1518 opened up quite yet as there are some concerns about the distance between that entrance ramp and the exit to FM 3009 without all the expansion work in place. The south-bound entrance ramp from Schertz Parkway was opened when the main lanes were repaved over the weekend. The closures caused some heavy congestion, but crews were able to work quickly and get the lanes reopened a full two hours earlier than estimated.

We are still working on the highway widening between Schertz Pkwy and FM 1518 ... but we're getting there! We have the south-bound exit to FM 1518 to finish up as well, and the south-to-north turnaround to complete.

A design team at our district office has taken over the reworking of the construction sequence and traffic control plan for the north-bound exit to Forum Parkway. We're hopeful to have a new plan in place this week and get shovels in the ground again, allowing us to have that finished and reopened around Halloween.

Bexar County - Wurzbach Parkway

This three-in-one project (it's actually three seperate projects, but I talk about it as if it were one) has been interesting over the last couple of years. The biggest question asked is the one I'll answer first: When's it going to be done? The answer is in three parts:

  • Blanco-to-West: Early fall 2013
  • West-to-Jones Maltsberger: Early 2015
  • JM-to-Wetmore: Mid 2014
With formalities aside, there's been a ton of development over near Blanco Road and Vista Del Norte. Minor lane closures at Blanco have allowed crews to finish work on some concrete islands and get some sidewalk built, and they're almost done with the turnaround (west-to-east) at Blanco. The Vista Del Norte intersection is trickier, with a right-on, right-off configuration for all directions. Crews are working on building all that's needed to make that new intersection fully operational, and they've already got traffic moving in a modified version of the final configuration.

Closer to U.S. Highway 281, crews are working on the bridge structures east of the highway. There's a lot of activity on Bitters at U.S. 281, as well as at Nakoma and Hwy 281. This work has required some turnaround closures at both locations and some actual lane closures of Bitters Road under the highway. we're expecting work to continue in both locations for another five months or so, but the contractor has been working hard to get the traffic lanes reopened sooner.

Efforts to get Jones-Maltsberger finished (it's been involved with closures and a detour configuration for over a year now) and sized up for the future intersection with the Parkway are moving more intensely. Last week electricians were building the infrastructure needed for all the traffic signals and pedestrian sign posts. We're hoping to have the road opened to its final, four-plus lane configuration by the end of September.

Bexar County: Vance Jackson overpass bridge

With everything else in the district, this significant project has managed to fly under the radar a bit. The good news is we're nearly finished, and hope to have the bridge opened for use by the end of September. That will allow traffic along Vance Jackson from, say, DeZavala Road to reach The Rim without turnarounds or using I-10. We're hoping it affords local traffic a viable alternate to I-10 in the event of heavy traffic during peak hours.

Bexar County: Marbach Road overpass

With work on a sound wall along the north-bound lanes south of Marbach, the biggest work (for now) outside the median area is underway. For the most part, we've not had a ton of major lane closures as yet. That will change (a little) when we start building the actual overpass bridge at Marbach ... but that's still quite a way out.

The best news of all is knowing this project is running on time and is (so far) pretty smooth. (Quick - somebody knock on some wood!) We're hoping to be finished by early fall next year. I'll say this: having met the head honcho with the contracting company (Capital Excavation) on that project, I've met few motivated to get a project as quickly as this group is. They really want to be in, out and done.

Bexar County: I-10 Huebner

This project is moving right along with Webber Construction pushing the cart. Bridge building crews are just a couple of weeks from having work on the I-10 overpass at Fredericksburg Road finished, which means traffic will be returned to a full three lanes on the main lanes by the end of the month. (May be a little sooner than that, even!)

It also means some relief at the intersections of I-10, Huebner and Fredericksburg is in sight. It's a tough area to start with during peak hours, and we know the work we've been doing has complicated things. Thank you to those who've dealt so well with the work we're doing.

Those driving the project have noted the retaining walls near UTSA Boulevard as well. We're glad to be moving forward with that work. Seems so many struggles getting the support structures for those walls have been encountered, it's really satisfying to see the walls take shape.

The goal for the contractor is to get everything else ready for major work at the DeZavala overpass to start this fall. That work is going to result in major pinch points for traffic along I-10 and DeZavala; the main lanes will be squeezed (made narrower) and shifted over. If anyone drove through I-410 during work on the north side of San Antonio a few years back, they'll recognize the traffic patterns.

When we get into the DeZavala bridge (we're lifting it, and in turn need to lengthen the bridge and widen it a bit), we'll close down BOTH turnarounds underneath. This work will continue for a full year - six months in each direction. The work has incentives tied to it, and the contractor stands to earn an extra $300K for each side if the work can be done fast enough.

Job bosses are telling me they hope to be finished with the entire project by the start of 2015 - which is only six months behind the initial schedule (most of the delay coming from the bankruptcy proceedings for Ballenger Construction).

Bexar County: Fred-Med

Questions on this project come weekly, so here's what we've got:

We selected a contractor earlier this summer (the project went through the entire bid process all over again) and expect to start work in September. This is a two-year job, so expect to see action until near the end of 2015.

Texas Sterling Construction won the contract with a bid of a little more than $13.8 million, which was pretty well in line with the construction estimate offered by our engineers. All told, the project has a projected total cost of about $14.6 million.

Bexar County: I-35 SAMMC

This project is going to be a doozy. It's all about safety, and the U.S. Department of Defense even kicked in a bit of money (to the tune of more than $20 million, enough to pay for more than a third of the total construction) to make this happen.

While we're expanding the highway between the north and the south I-410 interchanges on I-35, the biggest thing we're doing here is moving the ramp from south-bound I-35 to south-bound I-410 to the right side. Currently, as a left-hand exit, we're seeing some safety concerns and some traffic bog-down from trucks moving across four lanes of traffic to reach the ramp.

We're hoping to shave something like five minutes off the average commute time through this corridor with this improvement (and a host of others). But growing pains will come first, and the work on the 4.6-mile stretch is scheduled to be finished by mid-2017.

Lane Construction - one of the largest road builders in the country - won the award for the $74.4 million project. We're expecting this work to kick off in the next month or so.

That's it - for now!

That just about sums it up. I'll have smaller posts related to each project as they progress. Thanks for your patience!