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Friday, October 4

Fred-Med: week three and beyond.

Crews have officially been working on the "grade seperation" project at the intersection of Fredericksburg Road and Medical Drive for two weeks now, and we feel like we're all still getting to know eachother on the project.

That is, we feel like daily commuters in the area are still getting used to us, and us to them. That's pretty normal!

Because we're just getting going and working out some kinks (and they're barely kinks, even ... just a few things being addressed here and there), let's talk about a few issues that have been brought to our attention to date:

Parking off the job site

With any new project, parking is one of the first issues we face. We have several workers who show up to the job site, and they lack a parking space. As you can imagine, parking isn't really something that's included in our plan sheets, so guys try to park wherever they can when they get to the job. Just think of those awkward moments you showed up for your first few days of a new job, and you were still developing a routine for your parking space - that's what we're doing now.

We've heard from local businessowners about our guys parking in adjacent parking lots, taking up space that should be reserved for clients and customers. We've addressed that issue with the contractor and word will be passed down. The goal is to make sure our guys park within TxDOT right-of-way. It may not always be pretty, but that's what we try to do.

Tree removal

We've finished removing trees from the area that will make up the future westbound lanes (and ramp) of Medical Drive. We'll be trimming and pruning a bit next week still, but actual tree removal is complete.
Trees removed on the westbound side are to make room for the new road structure. We're done removing trees, but we will have tree trimmers out pruning trees through next week.
I've gotten a couple of notes on this. Most are concerned about whether or not we'll replace those trees. We will not - we won't have room to do so. We only removed the trees we needed to remove, though, and we're doing our best to ensure the remaining trees are able to remain in place.

The milestone

The overall project schedule from the contractor shows the project should be complete early 2015. The "milestone" (a major traffic-disrupting task within the project tied to a financial incentive and disincentive) is planned for fall 2014.

Crews are working six days a week, mostly at night, to get this project done. What's really exciting is the proposed method of building the bridge structure that will carry Fredericksburg Road over the sunken lanes of Medical Drive when we're all done.

When we're done, thru lanes of Medical Drive will run under Fredericksburg Road.
The method is a new-to-Texas method, called "slide-in bridge construction", or "accelerated bridge cosntruction". Essentially, the bridge deck is built off to the side and then slid into place. The method reduces (significantly) the time required to shut down a road in order to perform the bridge work.

The technique was actually developed centuries ago by ancient engineers and seems to be favored in Utah. The technique has been used in Nevada, Missouri, Oregon, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Though it won't likely present a major cost savings on this project, the technique can provide significant cost savings on larger jobs, and significantly reduces the impact on traffic. Just take a look at this weekend-long project, just outside Salt Lake City, replacing a bridge deck on Interstate 80:

With the milestone still more than a year out, right now our engineers are just getting excited about it. We look forward to talking about it much more when we get to the point of that work somewhere around this time next year.
What to expect now
Over the next two weeks, we'll have crews removing some of the curb and sidewalk - particularly along the downhill side of Medical Drive. With that sidewalk gone, pedestrians will need to use alternate routes. It's just not safe to walk through an active work zone, and we don't want people getting hurt.
Some of our closures include sidewalks. Please don't use closed sidewalks - for your safety and for ours!
We'll also start drilling support shafts for the retaining wall that will line the westbound side of Medical Drive. Again, this is on the downhill side of Medical, near where we've just cleared some trees. This drilling work will take place overnight. We're doing our best to be good neighbors to everyone here, and as part of that our priority is to work nights on this job.
With most of the work area for the westbound lanes set to be cleared by the middle of next week, we should be able to move excavation and drilling crews onto the work site in about two weeks.
Drilling is scheduled to begin as early as October 14.