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Thursday, November 14

New and old work along I-35.... (northeast San Antonio)

First, the new....

Work has officially begun on a three-year, $74.4 million project that will expand I-35 between Thousand Oaks Drive and San Antonio Military Medical Center. Lane Construction, one of the nation’s largest road-building contractors with a regional office in Fort Worth, will be doing the work.

The U.S. Department of Defense supplied $20 million for the work, hoping to address congestion and improve safety for those moving through the corridor on the way to SAMMC.

For you and me, this means construction activity will be a daily scene along this corridor. Overnight work this week and next will be used to restripe both main lanes and frontage roads, reducing lane widths by at least a foot project-wide.

All lanes - main lanes and frontage roads - have been skinnied up by about a foot. Be aware of this change as you drive through this corridor - especially around the heavy truck traffic!
The biggest impact for daily commuters is a reduced speed limit along the corridor. For the duration of the project, speed limits are capped at 55 miles per hour. The Department of Public Safety was involved with this decision, and their officers pledged to enforce the lowered limits – and, as a friendly reminder, fines double in active work zones!
Work zone speed limits are set at 55 m.p.h. for the next three years. Be aware of the change, and don't be surprised if a uniformed representative of the city or state reminds you of this change personally!
The lane closures folks are most likely to see along this project will be overnight only. Lane Construction is only allowed to close lanes on the main lanes during a very specific set of hours, with financial penalties in place for violating those restrictions. Additionally, by company practice, work will not typically be taking place during weekends.

Through the holiday season, lane closures will be scarce. Next week we’ll see closures to allow for barrier to be set and the remaining road stripes to be painted; then, through the end of the year, the work will be done primarily behind concrete barrier.

Beware, though, of an occasional truck entering or exiting the highway to leave or reach a work zone.

When we’re all done with this project (and this is looking three years down the road), we will have:
  • Expanded the highway by one lane in each direction
  • Reversed some of the ramps along the corridor; that is, exit ramps will become entrance ramps and vice versa
  • The southbound exit ramp from I-35 to I-410 will be moved to the right side of the road (it’s a left-side exit right now) 
The biggest change with this project will be at this interchange - the lanes moving to southbound I-410, at left, will be moved to the right. The idea is to cut down on the traffic weave involving heavy trucks coming from nearby industrial facilities.
While work began Monday (Nov. 11), we’ll be looking to hold a formal, ceremonial groundbreaking in the next few weeks.

The already ongoing....

The biggest news on the I-35 Selma project surrounds the work being done around the northbound exit to Forum Parkway.

Dan Williams Co. is on pace to have that exit ramp open by Thanksgiving (and might even have a day or two to spare). The bigger impact on daily traffic will come next week, though: we plan to have the ramp from Loop 1604 to northbound I-35 reopened in time for Monday’s morning commute.
Soon traffic from Loop 1604 will be merging onto northbound I-35 right here, after passing under the nearly complete exit to Forum Parkway.
That's good news!

Of course, we'd be amiss without adding the caveat that weather and equipment challenges could cause some hiccups. Remember: the goal is to have the ramps from Loop 1604 back in action by Monday morning. That means folks will see a fair amount of work over the weekend as crews lay a final surface of asphalt and stripe the lanes for the ramp, then remove the portable barriers and detour signs. All told, that should take most of the weekend to accomplish.

On the southbound side, Dan Williams Co. has scheduled subcontractors to pave the exit ramp to Olympia Parkway and Forum Parkway. Again, the goal is to reopen the exit ramp in time for Thanksgiving, ensuring all roads are open to the Forum this holiday season.

Now, the intersection at FM 3009.... Our friends up in Schertz are anxious to see that work finished, and we are very aware! To be honest, we're just as anxious to finish up. Our inspectors and engineers are spread thin, and our contractor would like to finish up so he can be paid for his work.
When work near Forum and Olympia parkways wraps up, crews will hit hard the northbound exit to FM 3009 and the attendant frontage roads and new turnarounds.
But, because of the priority (due to financial incentives and disincentives) at Forum Parkway, focus for the next two weeks will be squarely on the ramps near Forum and Olympia parkways. Once those ramps are built - and, by all accounts, work could be finished up by the end of the month down in that area - crews will move to the FM 3009 area. This will mean finally getting to the rebuild that will close the northbound exit to FM 3009 for as much as three weeks. It will mean finally finishing up the turnarounds at FM 3009, and a final layer of asphalt for the road.

We've already added the second left-turn lane on the frontage road, hoping to help traffic flow better at the intersection. Now we just need to finish the structures. That work will begin (again) in earnest the first week of December.